“I don’t know if people realize how much this (teen pregnancy) costs the state,” Fonda said Wednesday during a visit to The Farm. “When children are born to teenagers, they usually end up dependent on welfare. They drop out of school, which makes it harder to get a job, especially in this economy. So the children grow up in poverty. If you took a map of Georgia and highlighted the pockets of high poverty they would be the exact same places where the rates of teen pregnancy are the highest.”
Fonda, an Academy Award-winning actress, philanthropist and author, spoke and signed copies of her latest book “Prime Time” as part of a fundraiser for G-CAPP. Among other programs, G-CAPP funds Oak Haven, a “second chance” home in Dalton for teen mothers and their children.
“In 1996, in Georgia, there were only 10 beds in Georgia for underage girls with children who had no safe place to live,” she said. “They couldn’t live at home because their stepfather was raping them or their mother was a drug addict or there was violence. They can’t get welfare funds unless they are in a place that’s stable with adult supervision.”
Fonda said second chance homes started in Texas under then-Gov. George W. Bush.
“We brought the person in charge of them in Texas here, and she spoke to the Legislature and she convinced them to fund them,” Fonda said.
“The girls come in. They can stay until they are 21, but they have to graduate high school. We help them get into college or technical school. We teach them how to be good parents,” she said. “We’ve added on to that transitional housing. When they move out of the second chance homes, they move into apartments where people come by to make sure they are OK and help them to learn to live on their own.”
Oak Haven board member Rick Myers said the home has room for six mothers and their children and is currently full.
“We started in 2001, so it has been around for a decade and has probably helped hundreds of people, mothers and children, over that time,” he said.
But second chance homes are just one of several programs G-CAPP operates.
“We have the Doula Project, where we train women from the community to help young pregnant girls in advance of giving birth what to expect, how to be good mothers,” Fonda said.
The doulas not only offer emotional support before and during pregnancy, they help make sure that young mothers get prenatal care and plan for having a child.
“The incidence of Caesarian sections is way down (among mothers who have a doula). These girls breast feed. They tend to take better care of their children, and they tend not to have other children right away,” Fonda said.
Fonda now lives in Los Angeles, but she says her heart is still in Georgia, where she lived for almost two decades, and she says she is glad to see how strongly state and local officials have embraced G-CAPP’s comprehensive approach to reducing teen pregnancy.