Friday, June 26, 2009

Paying girls to stay baby free; ethical?

An interesting program has been in place since 1996 at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro campus called College Bound Sisters. The program’s goals are to help girls avoid pregnancy, graduate from high school, and enroll in college. To assist girls in achieving the goals, the program pays each girl enrolled a $1 for each day they remain baby free. The money is deposited into a fund that each girl will get when they enroll in college. Girls can enroll in the program as early as 12 years of age.

According to College Bound Sisters website,, to be eligible the girls need to between the ages of 12-16, has a sister who had a baby before age 18, has never been pregnant, wants to attend college, and is willing to attend a 1.5 hour meeting each week at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro campus. The girls are broken up into two groups during the 90 minute meetings – 12-14 and 15-18. Joshua Miller in his article North Carolina Program Pays Girls a Dollar a Day Not to Get Pregnant that “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.”

Dr. Brown explained the program as, “We talk about abstinence, but it’s not a requirement. We teach decision-making, being responsible and avoiding pregnancy. The meetings are very interactive.” The program was originally funded by a grant from the North Carolina’s Department of Health and Human Services. Bill Albert, chief program office at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is reported, in Mr. Miller’s article, as saying, “It makes me a bit uneasy. 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.”

Although I think Mr. Albert’s stretch to marijuana deludes the conversation, it does raise interesting question. The program only enrolls 24 girls at a time. With only 125 girls involved since 1997, it may be too early to pass judgment on the program. Yet, the idea of paying at risk girls to attend meetings, stay baby free, and enroll in college is interesting. Since the girls have to stay enrolled until they go to college to receive the money, it does give good incentive for the girls to stay baby free.