A program, at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, called College Bound Sisters is offering girls from 12- to 18-years a dollar a day to keep away from getting pregnant.
Girls following the program attend 90-minute meetings every week at which they receive lessons in abstinence and the use of contraceptives, and they get 7 dollars every week if they do not get pregnant.
AdvertisementThe money they receive is then deposited into a fund that's collectible when they enrol in college.
But paying kids to stay childless is not seen by all as the right way to lower the teen pregnancy rate, as it seems to send mixed messages, specifically to parents, that incentivizing good behaviour is the way to go.
"It makes me a bit uneasy," Fox News quoted Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, as saying.
"I do have mixed feelings. It's hard to pay people to do something that we think they should be doing regardless. It would be like if you didn't want young people to experiment with marijuana, you'd pay them not to do it," he said.
Despite what he called his "gut-level queasiness" about paying girls not to get pregnant, Albert acknowledged that creative ways are needed to address the "very challenging social issue" of teen pregnancy.
Dr. Hazel Brown, co-director of the program, said six girls of the 125 who have been enrolled for six months or longer have gotten pregnant or otherwise dropped out since it began in 1997.
Funded by a grant from the state's Department of Health and Human Services, Brown said it costs about 75,000 dollars a year to operate the program.
"We talk about abstinence, but it's not a requirement," Brown said.
"We teach decision-making, being responsible and avoiding pregnancy. The meetings are very interactive," she added.
Enrollment in the program, which meets separately twice a week for two groups, ages 12-14 and 15-18, is at capacity with 24 young women.
To participate, girls must have never been pregnant, be enrolled in school, have a desire to attend college and have had a sister who gave birth before age 18.
Recent graduates have left the program with up to 3,000 dollars saved up for college, including four young women who are set to begin their higher education in the fall.
Brown said the program is successful, and said its critics should consider the "cost of a teen getting pregnant".
"When you can prevent one of those, you've more than paid for a program like this," she said.
"We want to give them something to work toward. And without exception, our girls have come from homes that did not have someone with a college education ...
"If somebody believes in you, there's no end to what a lot of people can accomplish," she added.
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