There has been quite a bit of buzz around this topic since the beginning of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Ministries across the country have found themselves on vacillating ends of the spectrum between empty and full houses with burgeoning waiting lists. So why the variance?
I recently spoke with homes from different regions of the country, each with varied programming models, ministry models, and eligibility criteria. I found that the homes with low occupancy rates (For the purposes of this writing, “low” will be less than 25%) repeatedly described their experiences of receiving calls from women in the community inquiring about their home or even interviewing some women, however, these women did not meet the criteria to be eligible to move into the home. Reasons ranged from past or current drug use, criminal record, previous pregnancies, previous children removed from care, children currently in care, or perhaps a generally poor attitude. Needless to say, this can be an exhausting daily merry-go-round for ministries.
Many of us serving in maternity housing ministries have found ourselves in similar shoes! The lives of our residents can be complicated and the definition of “success” is admittedly subjective. Using a tool such as the Evaluation Matrix for Maternity Homes, which you will find cost-free in the Heartbeat affiliation tools for maternity homes, can help to provide an objective and quantifiable measure of progress in the lives of residents.
It is important to provide data on a few specific outcomes that are directly related to your mission statement, typically about 3-5 outcomes. Our recommendation is to internally measure a wide variety of indicators (about 10-15) and externally present the selected few. This will help guide the public in awareness of specifically how your mission statement is affecting the community as well as keep you equipped with relevant data about many areas of a resident’s progress to have on hand for conversations with donors.
Great topic of discussion here. First, I’ll share that you are not alone. This is the most common place of exasperation among maternity housing ministries that I hear of on a regular basis! Several factors may play into this, chief among them being our high rate of unemployment nationally at this time. Most communities are facing labor shortages with ministries not being any different.
So, what to do to keep the ship afloat during the storm? While we have a shortage in labor, we ironically do not have a shortage of unpaid labor in most communities! My recommendation is to make the most of this season to build a first-class volunteer program in your ministry. A thriving volunteer program can bolster every aspect of your ministry from recruitment, evangelism, programmatic operations, and especially development/fundraising.
by Valerie Humes, Director of the NMHC
It is a busy season of vision-casting and building, building, building here in the National Maternity Housing Coalition. The NMHC exists to support your housing ministry in fulfilling the mission the Lord has given you with excellence. We are turning up the heat in our zeal to journey with you all year long. The Holy Spirit is calling a greater number of believers to provide homes for women in unplanned pregnancies all over the nation – all over the globe! We’ve been astounded as we’ve watched the spiritual explosion of hearts stirred with a desire to preach the gospel to the nations by opening their homes. We are witnessing the time-tested union of hospitality and evangelism shake communities.
So, what does this mean for you, our fellow Coalition Members? We are building feverishly with you in mind. Over the course of the next year, you can expect to find increased opportunities to directly ask questions and receive answers for your housing ministry, receive free content and helpful tools within the housing specialty all year long, and have a voice which directly shapes our annual in-person training opportunities.
Meet me in a conversation with Mary Peterson on Pregnancy Help Podcast to hear a little bit more about our vision for the maternity housing community! (Click here)
We want to hear from you!
Keep an eye out for fresh content from the NMHC here:
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.
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
by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialist
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.
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.
Tina Turner got it wrong.
When answering with the question, "what's love got to do with it?" she called it “a second-hand emotion." No way. In the Christian walk, love is both the ultimate goal (being unified in Love with God) and the way to get there (loving God and our neighbor).
In our homes, the demands of love are a constant invitation to show up, speak up, and lift up. Here’s a few ideas for how you live and love incarnationally within the work of maternity homes—loving tough, yet unconditionally.
There is a spiritual insight that suffering expands one's capacity to love. The women who join our homes have often known great suffering—some due to their own decisions and some due to the horrific decisions of others.
We have the noble challenge of trying to help each mother understand that the heartache of their lives can produce a bedrock strength and a beautiful ability to love deeply. Starting with themselves and their children.
As we exercise compassion—literally, suffering with—the moms, we too are being perfected in love!
by Mary Peterson, Housing Consultant
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