Teen pregnancy prevention hit by shutdown
A local agency dedicated to ending teen pregnancy in Caldwell County is the latest victim of the federal shutdown.
This week, the Caldwell Council on Adolescent Health was told the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services will no longer provide funding from federal grants until notified otherwise. This means the agency will not be reimbursed for two key programs: the Adolescent Parenting Program, which costs $75,000, and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, $50,000. The council's budget for fiscal 2013-14 is $163,000, which was dependent on the parenting program receiving $75,000.
"When we got the letter, it was shocking," said Angie Ashley, executive director. "The hardest part is, we have a contract with the government that says they awarded us this money. I can see a frozen account, reimbursements being backed up for months. But to completely remove the funding we signed a contract for is shocking."
The grant for the Adolescent Parenting Program was recently awarded, and a new employee was trained and began working at the council earlier this week. After less than two days, she had to be told she may no longer have a job.
"You know you tell somebody for two months you have a brand new job and you get them up here (from training) and the government shutdown letter comes," Ashley said. "We cried. We're girls, you know. But my job is as a director is not to just think about today, but about next week, six months from now, or a year from now. This will still affect us. If we have to go down to a skeleton crew, we will."
In 1983, when the council was formed, Caldwell County ranked fourth among the 100 counties in North Carolina in its teen pregnancy rate. Twenty years later, the county's rate dropped to 67th. It now ranks 46th.
Caldwell Schools Superintendant Steve Stone said the council's work has been "phenomenal."
"I'm concerned about the possibility these programs could go away. Our concern is the pregnancy rate could go back up," he said.
Ashley's goal now is to keep programs in place, even if it means making tough payroll decisions.
"It will be salaried staff, like myself, those who are not on the front line of programming, who would be affected," she said.