by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialist
Early in the three-day meeting, the question was posed: "Has the maternity housing movement, as a whole, strayed from its core mission?" Gulp. Big question.
All present were quick to defend the good work that currently happens in the approximately 400 maternity homes across the United States. There is no doubt of the important role that maternity homes play within the pregnancy help movement. But the question lingered.
Historically, maternity homes developed to support women through an adoption plan, first as large institutional programs often staffed by Catholic religious orders. Trying to protect the confidentiality of the women coming to the program, these early homes were often shrouded in secrecy and silence. Many of the reforms in adoption began from the heartache of women who experienced adoption not as an empowering choice, but rather as a decision they felt was forced upon them without sensitive acknowledgment of the pain involved.
From these roots, as movement toward open adoptions began, the host or shepherding home model developed as families began welcoming a pregnant woman into their homes. And, in recent history, as the needs and challenging circumstances of the pregnant women in need of housing support have increased, a variety of models have developed that allow for increased expertise in supporting women in situations related to addiction, violence, abuse, and trauma. As this progression has happened, the number of adoptions in maternity homes has dramatically decreased.
The 10 housing leaders who serve as the Leadership Council for the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC), a joint-affiliate of Heartbeat International, gathered to think deeply about why this has happened and how maternity homes might restore their heritage as a safe refuge for women considering adoption. It is not as if maternity homes are not supportive of adoption.
Homes, generally, are delighted to walk with a women pursuing an adoption plan. And, several homes, especially those with over 30 years of experience, have deep organizational ties to adoption agencies. Even so, the NMHC Leadership Council collectively wondered, "Can we be doing more? Why do we continue to see declining numbers? Is there something that we, as maternity homes, can do better?"
Shawn Stevenson, the Executive Director of Life Services in Spokane, Wash., raised the question of an organization's "null curriculum". Based on his training in the education field, Shawn asked, "It makes me wonder about our programs. Specifically, What are we teaching by what we are not teaching?"
He continued, "Is there something in the way that we handle adoption that inadvertently communicates a bias we don't intend?" The statement raised a great conversation about the strategies used by homes to introduce adoption.
Through discussion, five major strategies surfaced. All are currently being used by homes to incorporate an adoption message:
While these strategies are a solid starting point, the challenge was raised on how to re-think and re-craft the strategies used to present the beauty of adoption in new and creative ways within the home environment.
Summing up the conversation, Jeannine Floores, a birth mom and adoptive mom who leads Breath of Life in Austin, Texas spoke of the need to create an adoption-positive culture throughout the organization.
"Moms need to know that you aren't focused on WHAT decision she makes," she said, "only that she makes an informed, prayerful, thought-out decision."
The National Maternity Housing Coalition took this message to heart and renewed its commitment to pregnancy decision making as the place of excellence for maternity housing programs.
"It is this decision-making process that makes maternity homes different than any other housing programs for women," Callie Neff of House of His Creation asserted, "In addition to all the other ways that maternity homes support women, we must support her in thinking about her options around how her child will be parented."
A re-examination of our past as a maternity housing movement allowed us to remember our role in championing the adoption message. As such, the NMHC is inviting homes to re-engage the adoption message in a new way this year and keep decision-making during pregnancy at the heart of their mission. You can anticipate dynamic trainings and conversations on how to achieve that goal within the upcoming year.
by Sarah Saccone, Program Director, Lamb of God Maternity Home
So much has changed in the past 30 years with regards to adoption, especially as it relates to maternity homes.
In past decades, a woman would disappear to a maternity home cloaked in all of the shame of being pregnant out of wedlock. She would then re-enter her community, carrying a huge secret, and in many cases not even knowing into what family her baby was placed.
Although things today are completely different there are still misconceptions from some of our biggest family influences and in the media.
There is a great deal of confusion between private adoptions and foster care. Also, many beliefs that are deeply rooted in families that play a crucial role in what a woman in crisis knows and feels about adoption.
In today's society, pregnancy out of wedlock has become the norm. We as pro-lifers know that life is ALWAYS better than death and strive to work with women to aid them in making the best decisions for their babies and themselves. Sometimes women feel that the best form of parenting they can give, is to lovingly choose an eager couple to take on the job. It is OUR job as maternity home leaders to make absolutely certain that a woman making the courageous decision to place her baby is comfortable, supported, and well informed in our maternity homes. We have found that this can be a tricky task.
There is so much that goes into finding the perfect balance of honoring women who choose to parent and honoring women who choose to place. Below are ten ideas on how to make your maternity home more friendly to women who are making the decision to place their babies for adoption.
Sarah Saccone serves as the full-time Program Director for Lamb of God Maternity Home, daily giving witness to her passion for women in crisis pregnancy through the gift of adoption.Utilizing her Bachelor degree in Sociology from California State University of San Marcos, she worked as a counselor of homeless youth in a shelter-home atmosphere for nine years. She has served on the boards of several mental health non-profit organizations, been a long time volunteer for San Diego Hospice, and spent time teaching children in East Africa. She resides in San Diego, California.
by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialist
Sarah Saccone serves as the full-time Program Director for Lamb of God Maternity Home, daily giving witness to her passion for women in crisis pregnancy through the gift of adoption. Utilizing her Bachelor degree in Sociology from California State University of San Marcos, Sarah worked as a counselor of homeless youth in a shelter-home atmosphere for nine years. She has served on a number of mental health non-profit boards, been a long-time volunteer for San Diego Hospice, and spent time teaching children in East Africa. When describing Sarah, Grace noted, "She is able to mentor, inspire, and listen...but also lay down the boundaries and call the moms on their stuff. I wish I could duplicate her for each of our future homes!"
Grace Dulaney is the Founder and CEO of Agnus Dei Foundation. Inspired by her personal experience as a birthmother, Grace established the Foundation to impact the culture of life by being a champion for adoption as a viable and positive solution to an unplanned pregnancy. The foundation opened its first Lamb of God Maternity Home in San Diego two years ago. Because of its supportive and loving environment, 100% of the birthmothers in their program have stayed committed to their adoption plan. The foundation is laying plans to replicate this unique and successful model nationwide. The stories of birthmothers who have lived at Lamb of God Maternity Home are featured in The Sidewalk Chronicles, a beautiful documentary that aired on January 24th. The film juxtaposes the hurt and regrets of women who have aborted with the joy, pride, and peace of women who have chosen adoption [watch the trailer here]. http://www.agnusdeifoundation.org/
Sarah, the 30-year old Program Director of Lamb of God Maternity Home acknowledged, "It's mentally exhausting. My friends will ask, 'How was your day?' and I think, 'I can't even explain to you how my day was.'"
Leaders in maternity housing face the burden of supporting staff, like Sarah, who are daily facing the complicated scenarios of the moms. Plus, they must manage the logistical challenges of keeping an organization going–keeping procedures legal, staff equipped, donors informed, and more! Up against the programmatic and administrative challenges that a maternity-home demands, the role of leadership is particularly important.
The leadership exercised during the start-up stage has unique aspects. When reflecting on her experience of founding a home, Grace Delaney, the founder of Lamb of God Maternity Home, offered this leadership advice, "The most important aspect is to have things lined up before you move forward. There is such a temptation to put the cart before the horse." She continued, "Reign in and be more deliberate. Set realistic goals; have the right people in place; have the right physical location. Because once it begins, things really start happening!"
Once the home is operational, the challenge of finding "right fit" staff is common. Grace noted, "When it comes to getting the right staff, its 10% knowledge, 10% skills and 80% mindset. Mindset includes things like desire to serve, people skills, and flexibility. You need to find those with absolute passion--where it is a vocation!" Continuing on this theme, Sarah quipped, "Every job description should end with 'and it will be ever changing.' There is just something about the work that demands flexibility." After sharing her gratitude for the wonderful staff with which she worked, Angie Hammond, a long-term leader of multiple life-affirming ministries, reflected that recruitment is a work of God, "You have to pray them in."
Reflecting on the different types of authority with a maternity home, Angie described a lesson that she learned, "My office was in the house, so directing things back to the house parents was essential. If a mom wanted to tell me something, I needed to hear it from my house parents. It also went the other way; if a mom needed to hear something, it came from the house parents. That way, I was teaching the moms to honor authority and to follow protocol."
"As leaders, our responsibility is to create safe, positive environment for everyone to learn," noted Angie. "Our staff need the freedom and safe place to share their experiences, concerns and disappointments." As one of the staff working directly with moms, Sarah described her experience, "There are rough days and there are beautiful days... but there are so many little miracles that it makes it joy to be part of."
Heartbeat International is partnering with the National Maternity Housing Coalition for a seventh round of highly interactive peer discussions entitled "Power Conversations." Short and sweet, these 45-min conversations are perfect for program staff, house directors, and maternity housing leaders at all stages of development and experience.
The next round of Power Conversations begins May 25, 2017 covering a wide range of topics essential for success in your Maternity home.
Summer Power Conversation Schedule:
*All calls begin at 12 PM EST
Thinking of conserving power this summer?
Well maybe it’s time to think again.
This summer, Heartbeat International is partnering with the National Maternity Housing Coalition to pilot six highly interactive strategy sessions we like to call “Power Conversations.”
Short, sweet, and packing a punch, these 30-minute conversations are a perfect environment for maternity housing leaders at all stages of development and experience.
Here’s what to expect from Power Conversations this summer:
All sessions start at 2 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)
Call-in Number: (559) 726-1300Participant Access Code: 705126
Somewhere along the line several years ago, moms started using the title “Baby Daddy” to refer to the man they had been involved with when they became pregnant.
“The ‘baby daddy’ went with me to doctor today.”
“Him? Nah, we’re not dating—he’s the ‘baby daddy.’”
When it was still a new term, I remember hearing it a few times. Soon after, I saw it used in a pop magazine and realized that the term wasn’t just a passing phase. A sign of our times, the phrase “baby daddy” has come to be commonly understood as referring to a specific situation and calling to mind attributes of a specific kind of man.
It is this man who is often connected to the women of our homes.
More and more, I hear pregnancy help organizations reflect on how to better engage men. For maternity homes, this question is framed as, “How do we help ‘baby daddies’ grow into fathers?”
In the maternity home setting, this can raise the question, “If they are choosing to parent, how do we help single mothers—fatherless families—to invite the right type of men into their lives and raise children in the context of authentic masculinity?”
It’s a difficult tension—wanting to honor the role a man plays as a father and simultaneously, wishing a new mom would finally sever a destructive attachment to a man who is just using her, abusive, manipulative, or in and out of jail.
Hope Mansion in Cedar Hill, Texas, led by Angie Hammond, has developed an interesting program to address this tension.
The program, still under development, uses communication with the women as the leverage point. In order to be able to spend time with the mother residing in the maternity home, the man must walk through a variety of steps in a process they refer to as a “Treasure Hunt.”
One of the first steps is to require a formal letter from the “Baby Daddy,” in which he must explain his intentions regarding the resident in the Home and the baby. Once the Home receives the letter, he is provided with the workbook, “The Me I See,” from Loving and Caring. Next, he makes a request to meet with the House Dad, giving the opportunity to engage in a deliberate conversation.
Calling upon his masculine drive to take action, the intent is for the man to realize the mother of his child truly is a treasure—a woman worthy of his sacrifice. If he fails to take the simple steps required, then he is not allowed contact, and the house parents encourage the woman to think deeply about what it means that he was unwilling to make such small gestures in order to stay in her life.
“We are pleased by the level of conversation that has opened up,” Angie says. “The Treasure Hunt puts the initiative and the consequence into the hands of the man. And thus, provides an opportunity for real growth.”
Has your home, like Hope Mansion, discovered effective strategies for engaging men and teaching fatherhood? We would love to hear (and share!) more.
For more information on Hope Mansion, visit: https://www.hopemansion.com.
Every day, in every corner of the world, God is moving His people to launch new efforts on behalf of mothers and children at-risk for abortion, as well as efforts aimed at healing those affected by previous abortions and reaching communities with positive pro-life messages focusing on imago Dei and Sexual Integrity.
Whichever ministry you decide upon, we recommend looking at some key resources to get you started on the right foot.
Click any of the below to start with the information you need.
Answering the call to reach, rescue, and renew men, women, and children—even entire communities—from the violence of abortion requires a team effort, with every life-saver pulling on the same rope.
Click one of the below to learn more about your unique calling... and what you can do to become best equipped on the front lines of the Pregnancy Help Movement.
by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistHeartbeat International
As maternity housing providers, we regularly welcome women into our homes at a time when they are most vulnerable. Perhaps an even greater challenge, we also welcome these women into our hearts.
As I speak with homes across the country, so many within our portion of the pregnancy help movement are quick to point out, “We aren’t a shelter… it really is a home we are trying to create,” or, “These women really experience love in our homes.” These statements capture what it means to be a home with a heart!
Over the past two years, leaders of maternity homes have been strategizing how to best unify maternity homes across the country, in order to speak collectively, support fledging homes, learn from one another, and help every maternity home to be more successful in facilitating the transformation we hope to see in the lives of the women we serve.
The results of this on-going discussion has been the formulation of the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC), which is now reaching out to the more than 450 U.S. maternity homes to provide support and resources for the unique work of providing housing to homeless pregnant women.Heartbeat International has been a great partner every step of the way. With its extensive history of supporting life-affirming organizations, Heartbeat has given the newly created NMHC a home.
In partnering with Heartbeat, the NMHC is tapping into a wealth of resources, including Heartbeat’s Annual Conference, the ability to host webinars through the Heartbeat Academy, and the opportunity to have more maternity homes take advantage of Heartbeat’s existing resources, such as the Sexual Integrity™ Program, The LOVE Approach™, and Healing the Effects of Abortion-Related Trauma (H.E.A.R.T Manual™).
Heartbeat unites Christ-centered ministries from across denominational dividing lines, and has a deep cultural sensitivity shown by their 2,800 affiliates from across the country and around the globe.
The Coalition is blessed to have such a loving place to call home!
To make sure the Coalition starts off on the right foot, I am now working with Heartbeat as a Housing Specialist. I bring over 14 years of experience in the work of maternity homes, having co-founded and helped to guide Maggie’s Place in several stages of growth since 2000.
As the Housing Specialist, it is my task to listen deeply to the needs of maternity homes and to support the efforts of the Coalition, bringing about unity, resources, and support for maternity home leaders.
Maternity homes are a key response to the questions, “What about that child?” “What about that mother?” “What are you doing to help them?” Housing ministries provide the pregnancy help movement with a valuable response to these concerns.
By their nature, maternity homes meet a wide variety of needs, providing genuine choice and practical aid to mothers and mothers-to-be. Some of these precious women need help meeting immediate needs such as homelessness, while others need help formulating a long-term plan for success.
Aren’t we blessed to be smack dab in the middle of this wonderfully challenging and wonderfully beautiful work?!
For more information about the National Maternity Housing Coalition, please visit our website here.
You can read more about Heartbeat International’s role in the Coalition here.
Heartbeat International is the first network of pro-life pregnancy resource centers in the U.S. and the largest and most expansive in the world. Since 1971, Heartbeat has supported, strengthened and started pregnancy help organizations, including pregnancy medical clinics, pregnancy resource centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies all over the world. Currently, Heartbeat serves over 3,000 affiliate locations on all six inhabited continents to provide alternatives to abortion.
We are a nonprofit, interdenominational Christian association of faith-based pregnancy resource centers, medical clinics, maternity homes, and nonprofit adoption agencies endorsed by Christian leaders nationwide.
...is to make abortion unwanted today and unthinkable for future generations.
...is to Reach and Rescue as many lives as possible, around the world, through an effective network of life-affirming pregnancy help, to Renew communities for LIFE.
To achieve our mission, we do the following:
We REACH those who are abortion-vulnerable through Option Line's® 24-hour call center and cutting-edge website, www.OptionLine.org.
"Reach down your hand from on high; deliver me..." - Psalm 144:7
We RESCUE those who are reached through our life-support network of pregnancy centers providing true reproductive health care, ministry, education, and social services where lives are saved and changed.
"Rescue me, O Lord, from evil men; protect me from men of violence. " - Psalm 140:1
We RENEW broken cities around the world, by developing pregnancy centers where abortion clinics are the only alternative for abortion-vulnerable women.
"He sent me to bind up the brokenhearted...to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor... They will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations." - Isaiah 61:1-4
This story was sent to Heartbeat from Josephine Shoo, Executive Director of Options Pregnancy Clinic of Tanzania.
This child (pictured left) is albino. She almost lost her life before she was born, because her mother didn't have a true commitment to her father, and her family tried to force her to abort.
Herocially, she completely refused to do so!
After her birth, the father was so happy because the baby was albino, he came and suggested to the mother that they could cut her fingers or hands and sell them, so they could become rich and live forever happily together.
This is a lie of the enemy that has been going on in our country for many years. The spirit of death and the Culture of Death have far too often prevailed. Thankfully, this mother--again, heroically!--refused, and ran to our maternity home for rescue.
As for this precious little child, her life was in danger before and after her birth. But, she is now a big girl, and she just joined our school this year.
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