Illinois Gov. George Ryan announced today that Illinois has the lowest level of teen births since those statistics were first gathered in 1959.
In Winnebago County, those numbers have dropped as well. One local organization has been working for years to bring these numbers down.
Rockford Meld hosts a Christmas party for all the teen mothers who have been successful in their program. But after Gov. Ryan's announcement, they have even more to celebrate.
Heather and Denelle, both teen moms, felt alone from the start. "When I found out I was pregnant everybody was gonna be there. When I had him all those friends who said they'd be there left," says Heather Whitehead. Denelle Horton agrees, "there was always talk about being god parents and babysitters, but where are the babysitters when you need them."
A program like Rockford Meld is the light at the end of the tunnel for these girls.
Annette McLean, executive director of Rockford Meld says, "Our focus is to help them in any way. If they need to finish school, employment training, parenting."
And many times that's the key to preventing repeat pregnancies. "A lot of time when girls have a baby, they have another baby so our focus is to help teens, moms and dads, come up with new goals so that their directed and focused," McLean adds.
Denelle and Heather are both enrolled at Rock Valley College. Denelle wants to be a nurse and heather a criminologist. But not only have these girls found direction; they've also found lasting friendships.
"It makes you feel better to know that there are people going through the same things," says Denelle.
wifr.com Extended Web Coverage
Source: www.teenpregnancy.org (National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Web site) contributed to this report.