Levi the Teen Dad Hits the Big Time

'Long Cold Dark Winters With Nothing to Do'

Despite lingering stereotypes about Alaskans and what they do under the midnight sun or during the long dark winters, teen birthrates have declined precipitously in the state, dropping almost 44 percent from 1991 to 2005.

Randy Lewis, a social worker at Fairbanks Counseling and Adoption who works with teen fathers at the facility, says that many of them do not stay with, let alone marry, the child's mother and often fail to take responsibility for their children.

"For a lot of them, it's a huge lifestyle change, it goes from being self-centered to having to make choices about the welfare of somebody else," he said. "I see the moms getting pregnant and growing up in a short span in nine months but the dads take longer to reach that level of maturity. They want to continue their lifestyle and don't see an urgent need to discontinue their lifestyle."

The financial challenges faced by teen fathers without a family support network can be devastating, Lewis says.

"An awful lot of teen fathers feel pressured to join the work force before they have an education, trying to support a family with a minimum wage job like at McDonald's," he said.

Lewis speculates that Alaska has a higher rate of teen pregnancy than average.

"There are cultural differences -- as well as the long cold dark winters with nothing to do," he said.

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