Madonna and Jodie Foster did it. But fewer women than ever are following in their footsteps by becoming unwed mothers.

According to figures compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, there has been a small but notable decrease in the overall birth rate among unmarried women, to 44.8 per 1,000 in 1996 from 46.9 per 1,000 in 1994. Of course, statistics are statistics, and numbers don't change the heartache when a teen-age daughter learns she is pregnant.

Dear Lois: My 14-year-old daughter is going to have a baby. This child of mine is not some tramp who sleeps around. She has a boyfriend, and while I didn't know they were having sex, I thought my daughter was responsible and not likely to get into trouble. The boy's parents are neighbors. We are all church-going people, and abortion is not even a consideration.

No one knows about this yet except the parents. What can we do to protect our daughter so she can have some kind of life ahead of her?

- Distraught

Dear Distraught: You failed to mention a couple of things. Will the child be adopted, or will you or the other parents raise the baby? Since you are church-goers, I am sure you can be supplied with the names of appropriate adoption agencies should she give up the child, and if that is so, then plans can be made for her to move out of your home until after the birth.

If she plans to raise the child in your home, then you have to decide together how she will continue her education, handle increased responsibilities and what her relationship with the child's father and his family will be.

These are overwhelming decisions and will require some outside expert advice, because a teen pregnancy is not something you expected or are equipped to handle. Just try to take life one step at a time.

Consult your church for an appropriate counselor or telephone your local Family Service Association. The next months will be difficult for you, so make sure you have experts to give you the kind of emotional support you will need.

Dear Lois: Help! I have been married for a year and four months to a wonderful man. I have two teenagers (boy 15 and girl 14) who came to live with me after spending eight years with their dad. This should be a very happy time, but I think the kids resent Paul. Please give me some advice.

- Robin

Dear Robin: After eight years of being "Daddy's kids," it's hard for your children to come into a home where they are not the natural children of the man in the house. Your children also are at difficult ages in terms of changing their lives and accommodating their needs to a parental plan. I'd suggest that Paul try to get to know each child as an individual (does either child have a particular interest?) even if it's only a trip to the hardware store.

You don't mention Paul's life before you; does he have children, too? My recommendation is that you move slowly, however, in becoming a traditional family of four. Your children need to feel comfortable not only with Paul but with you as a full-time, live-in mom. Best luck to all of you.