A group that helps unmarried mothers said it provided counselling to a record number of under-age girls in the 2007-08 financial year. Twenty-four girls under the age of 16 sought counselling for unexpected pregnancies from April 2007 to March 2008, Mother's Choice said yesterday, revealing the figures for the first time. That constituted 12 per cent of the 197 cases handled by the group that year, pregnant girls' services team leader Suvan Law Sui-wan said. Five of the girls decided to raise their children by themselves. 'It does not necessarily mean there's a rising tendency of teenage pregnancy,' Ms Law said. 'But with better education and publicity, more young girls are aware of the need to seek help.' The group handled 20 cases of under-age pregnancy in 2005-06, the previous record, and dealt with 12 cases in 2006-07. More of the mothers it helped in 2007-08 decided to take care of their own children - 63 per cent, up 6 percentage points on 2006-07. The others were given up for adoption. Better acceptance of single mothers as well as more social support could have contributed to the increase, she said. Meanwhile, 20 unmarried mothers aged between 18 and 30 have been interviewed in a joint study by the group and Polytechnic University. Lit Siu-Wai, a lecturer from the university's department of applied social sciences, said that yearning for a family and special feelings towards the baby during pregnancy prompted the women to raise the children on their own. She recalled one of the interviewees saying: 'My parents divorced when I was about 10. Dad married again and my stepmother gave birth to my younger brother ... in the end he divorced the stepmother. When I was small I yearned for an intact family. I still do now.' The economic burden and negative attitudes of family members were two major difficulties faced by the mothers. Peer support was essential, she said. In July, Mother's Choice will launch a supported parenting home for young mothers. Kiki, 22, was one of the 20 mothers interviewed during the study. She said she had never regretted her choice to raise the baby on her own, after giving birth to a daughter two years ago after finishing Form Seven. She now has a full-time job along with a part-time job. 'I can't say it's a sacrifice on my behalf. It's only a change in how I live my life,' she said. 'In the past, I didn't have a direction or aim. Now I am putting my baby first.'