As a social worker for 25 years in Blair County, Lisa Covitch saw first-hand the devastating effects teen pregnancy can have on young girls and their families.
The things she saw, the stories she heard and the struggles she felt moved Covitch to write about this epidemic in an effort to help. The result is "The Epidemic of Teen Pregnancy: An American Tragedy," a book which outlines national statistics, but also relays Covitch's personal experiences and details the wealth of resources for teens and parents in the local area.
"I just really had an interest between two jobs, especially working closely with teen mothers that seemed to need a lot of guidance and a lot of help," Covitch said about what drove her to write the book starting in January 2010. "I just really got involved."
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Altoona author Lisa Covitch poses with her book “The Epidemic of Teen Pregnancy: An American Tragedy.”
Covitch works as a field care manager for the Community Behavioral Health Network of Pennsylvania, and in the past was a social worker and behavioral health specialist atAltoona Regional Hospital, working in the maternity ward from 1987 to 2006. She said she's encountered teen moms from as far as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, each in a unique personal situation. Some went so far as delivering their babies and putting them up for adoption without their parents knowing. One year, Covitch said she encountered six girls who were pregnant at age 12 or 13.
"It's just a very vulnerable population," she said, adding there, are 800,000 teen pregnancy cases per year in the nation. "I think it's a real dilemma. When we look at the education out there why is there still such a problem?"
Covitch hopes that "The Epidemic of Teen Pregnancy" can become an educational tool to be used in schools, and maybe incorporated into the reading for health classes. She also thinks it can be a resource for parents, as it outlines certain trends, like ignoring the feelings of teen fathers and how pregnancy can become glamorized to younger siblings of teen moms.
"We all say we should have parents talk to kids, but a lot of the time that doesn't happen," Covitch said. "So parents, teachers, we all can become more proactive through our schools and our society."
The book reports findings from interviews Covitch conducted with important figures in the community who work through institutions like Precious Life, Early Intervention and Teen Link.
Pastor Scott Manganella, who dedicated his work to crisis pregnancy management in 1986 when he became director of Precious Life, said he was "pleased and honored" to be included in Covitch's book.
"I think it will be a valuable resource for sure," he said.
"I think it will let folks know there are resources available."
It's the offerings like free counseling and assistance with physical needs that places like Precious Life provide that Covitch wanted to make the public aware of through her book. Though "The Epidemic of Teen Pregnancy" deals specifically with Blair County, she hopes the book could also become useful on a national level.
"It could have national potential because a lot of the agencies are comparable in other states," she said.
And because of the way the media portrays teen pregnancy through shows like MTV's "Teen Mom" series, Covitch hopes the book will help make sure teens can also gain a more "realistic picture" of this trend.
"I wanted to stress these problems just enough that people realize this is not an easy thing," she said. "I think that's the main thing I wanted to try to get across ... that this is a big responsibility and parenthood isn't something that should be taken lightly."
Covitch said if the book helps just one teenager or parent, her efforts in writing and researching the book will have been worthwhile.
"I think that by reading it, hopefully [teens] gain some new perspective, or think, 'Gee, this is something that could happen to me if I'm not careful,'" she said. "They should think twice before they go in that direction because it can be a very life-altering decision."
The book is available at www.rosedogbookstore.com. Covitch will present a free program and book talk at 1 p.m. Sept. 22 at the Altoona Area Public Library.
Mirror Staff Writer Beth Ann Downey is at 946-7520.