Displaying items by tag: housing

My Journey into Motherhood: A Testimony

by Michelle Gibbs, Family of Restoration MinistriesFORM Michelle Gibbs Article Headshot

My Journey into Motherhood

My heart for young single moms comes from my own journey. I was raised by a single mom. My parents never married and separated when I was around five years old. When I was nine, my dad started attending church and eventually became saved, so on our weekend visits with him, my brother and I would also attend church. However, growing up in two different households was confusing. Although my mom believed in God, we did things very differently in both households. There were many times when I wished we could go back to being a “complete” family again.

In navigating the different lifestyles of my parents, I was left confused and led by my flesh. As I moved through adolescence, I was living a lifestyle that went against everything the Bible teaches. Despite my Christian upbringing, I allowed myself to stray from His word and became pregnant at the age of 16.

When my family discovered the news of my pregnancy, they were all so very disappointed. I vowed to get my life in order; I was not going to become a statistic! I immediately transferred to a school for pregnant teens that was geared towards my success. I worked hard during my pregnancy to play catch up in school and two weeks after delivering my son, I returned to finish out the semester. I was blessed to have a nursery in the school where I could bring my son daily while I focused on my studies. I graduated with my toddler son right by my side however, in all my planning, the one thing I did not plan for was single parenting. My son’s father was sent to prison for his criminal activities.

My Passion for Single Moms

Juggling my many responsibilities, I continued to work part-time at a local department store until I received a phone call from the school social worker who gave me information about a mentoring job at a maternity home for pregnant teens. This was exactly what I had been praying about, a job where I could help others. The ladies and I would go into community agencies and schools to share our experiences of teen parenting in hope of discouraging others from choosing this same path. Most of us were raising our sons and daughters without the help of a father and I could see the brokenness in each of us. I resented myself for not choosing a better man but even more so, for not choosing the path that our Father in heaven intended.

Working as a Peer Counselor led to other job opportunities within the agency. I was asked to start an aftercare program for women in the community but this required schooling so I enrolled myself in college to pursue a degree in psychology.

During this time, my passion for young moms continued to grow. I could see the brokenness in them that I had seen in myself.

My educational journey gave me the degree I needed to pursue my passion but it was the hands-on training that I received that helped me capture the big picture, especially The Parenting Journey facilitator training. This parenting class was different and helped the women look at things through a different lens: the emotional aspect of parenting. It was a safe place to tear through the layers of brokenness in a way that is healing to the heart. Upon completing the 5-day intense training, I began facilitating my first class and the impact was amazing.

My Second Chance

At this point, my life was pretty much “together” and I was building my relationship with the Lord. I met my now husband Darryl who came to my agency to talk about his tragedy on how his 8-month old daughter was shaken and killed by her licensed child care provider. After enduring this nightmare, he found the strength to fight for a change and lobbied to have several laws passed in New York, one being Cynthia’s Law, named for his daughter, which now makes it a crime to shake, slam, or throw a child under the age of five causing serious physical injury. I was so moved by his passion to help prevent and educate others on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS) while keeping his daughter’s memory alive.

Our friendship developed into a relationship and together we combined our passions, mine for single moms and his for saving babies. He became the SBS educator at my agency and I would assist him at his speaking engagements. When we moved to Pennsylvania and I started working at Family of Restoration Ministries, it was only logical that he and I together educate the moms on the dangers of SBS and how to prevent it.

Giving Others a Second Chance

It is important for me to educate the women through the sharing of my own experience but also as an example of family. Far too often, I hear women stand strong in the belief that they can raise their children on their own and while this may be true, it is not what God intended. A single parent who is just scraping by has little time, energy or skill for parental duties and might have children who are at risk for a variety of problems. Women who find themselves in a situation that leads to single parenting need encouragement to seek adequate resources that help provide a stable, nurturing home in which children can thrive.

Today’s culture tends to undermine what parents are trying to teach their children, rather than support them in the their role. Social media, movies, music, and video games often glamorize immorality and promote everything that goes against the institution of family. Sex is presented out of the context of God’s plan to create families and is no longer reserved for marriage by most. We must lead by example. Prayer is the single most important thing we as Christians can offer. I offer my work, with so many others across the country, as a prayer that true family values will be restored in our society.


Michelle Gibbs is the Outreach Coordinator and Case Manager for Family of Restoration Ministries. She has over twenty years of experience working with pregnant and parenting teens and young women. Michelle is a proud native of New York and enjoys spending time with family and friends. Michelle lives in Ephrata, Pennsylvania with her husband Darryl and their five year old son Darryl Jr.


The mission of Family of Restoration Ministries is to restore, teach and equip individuals and families through Christ-centered programs. The current programs of FoRM include:

  • House of His Creation, a maternity housing program which includes birthmom support,
  • Caring 4 Young Families, a monthly support group to young parents including facilitating The Parenting Journey™ classes,
  • The Cynthia Gibbs Foundation, a teaching program on issues related to Shaken Baby Syndrome,
  • Other hosted events to bring together parents and children around purity, relationship building and family fun.

For more information about Family of Restoration Ministries, click here. Additional information about The Parenting Journey is available here.

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"Ministry-Minded" AND "Professionally Competent"

by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat Housing Specialistsocial network people

An interesting conversation sprang up in our Facebook group for housing leaders a few weeks ago. In essence, the question was on how to create a home-like environment. Many made very insightful comments based on the practices of their organization. (If you aren't a part of our Facebook group, you should be!)

My contribution to the discussion was to bring attention to the dynamic tension between "ministry-minded" and "professional-competent." As a former executive director of a housing nonprofit, I felt a tension between the two in a deep way, feeling as if I had to choose between one or the other. In my misguided thinking, it felt like a decision between Jesus and organizational excellence. And, of course, put that way, Jesus wins. It was a major turning point for me to embrace that I didn't have to choose -- that organizations could be BOTH. Rather than detracting from Christ, it glorifies Him to have dynamic, thriving organizations which are focused on serving His beloved with the love of Christ and excellent organizational practices.

Several years ago, I received significant funding to attend top-notch non-profit educational opportunities. I traveled to Stanford for a week of training on leading change, to Mexico for an international conference on reducing poverty, to Harvard for a seminar on social entrepreneurship...plus lots more. For a year, I was here, there, and everywhere to talk about big ideas. In those travels, I realized that many of the nonprofit organizations with missions opposed to a Biblical worldview are thinking deeply about topics like innovation, "best practices", improving impact, replication of a model for rapid expansion, capacity building, and more. They are thinking creatively and networking for a global impact, an impact that is in direct opposition to our Christ-centered missions of recognizing the deepest dignity of women and affirming the precious gift of life.

But, those topics are not just for the liberal agenda. Our missions can think about organizational excellence as well, covered in prayer and ordered to the glory of God. One way of referring to the work of leadership that I picked up from a spiritual mentor was to think of my job as "baptizing" the great practices that I encountered. In baptizing them, I wasn't "selling out" or "failing in my Christian witness." Rather, I was integrating them with the truth of Christianity.

I found that work extremely exciting...and also, exhausting. A major part of what I love about facilitating the National Maternity Housing Coalition is that I now feel as if that "baptizing" work is shared by a community of believers united in a common mission. Our learning community of Christian organizations helps everyone to improve and allows hard-won lessons to be shared more easily. It raises up new leaders and strengthens our industry as a whole.

I asked a few housing leaders their thoughts on this topic and those are below. I would ask YOU the same questions! Let's continue the conversation via Facebook!

  • What is hard about trying to be both 'ministry minded" and "professionally competent"?
  • What is something that has helped you grow stronger in one or the other or both?
  • How do you help your staff team to grow in both areas?
  • Any lessons learned about this dynamic that you would share with start-ups or new leaders?

These two priorities are sometimes going to be in tension due to limited time and resources. You can't avoid it, but you can use it. We have learned to embrace that tension as opportunities to refocus on our mission. Often a conversation based on professional competency versus ministry is not productive because they are independent goods. When we reframe the question to prioritize mission and vision - what's our mission and what will best help us accomplish it in this moment - that gives us a framework to evaluate our options and make a principled decision. This also gives our "ministry people" and our "professional people" an objective basis with which to discuss and resolve these questions.

Stephen Wallace, Gabriel Network

If you believe God is in control both will fall into place. Sometimes our staff is who God sends to create a balanced, insightful team.

Diane Schofield, Hands of Mercy Everywhere

As a Christian who aims to serve Christ every day, I tend to air more on the ministry-minded side. Humility, appreciation for others, and walking with Christ are all vital ministry components. Ultimately, one must be both professionally competent and ministry-minded to get the job done. In my opinion, being ministry-minded is actually more important, but make sure you are doing it for the right reasons!

Brianne Hansen, New Beginnings - A Home for Mothers

I feel professionalism as well as leadership follows Philippians 2 and Philippians 4. In our humility we become life long learners striving to learn what is good and strong and pure and right for our organizations, our ministries, our staff and volunteers, and ultimately the lives we serve everyday.

Carissa Figgins, The Sparrow's Nest Maternity Home

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52 Days: Rebuilding from Rubble

by Amanda Shaheen, The Sparrow’s NestRubble

On a recent trip to Israel, I stood in awe at a section of the original wall that Nehemiah had built around Jerusalem. Out of all the things to get excited about in the Holy Land, I was excited about a giant pile of rocks. But, it was more than just rocks. It was a symbol of a recovery from breakdown and ruin, a symbol of change and renewal, and a promise of hope and a glimpse of restored order. These very themes have resonated with me as I have journeyed as a house parent in a maternity home.

Moms come through our doors broken, discouraged, hopeless, and without a purpose and direction. For them, their walls have been ruined, burned and scorched by their past. Their walls lay in rubble around them. They build artificial and unstable walls, protecting themselves from having to trust or building on a foundation of hurt, but those too soon crumble. In those moments, as staff of a maternity home, we pick them up out of the rubble and beckon them to rebuild. Together, we begin the task of rebuilding the many layers: physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. We serve as their Nehemiah, guiding them in the arduous task of rebuilding and changing themselves towards the vision God has for their future.

We teach them that change is movement.

Change and rebuilding is one simple stone at a time. Rebuilding doesn't happen by others doing it for you. We desire their walls to be strong and firm with a good foundation, but we can't build it for them. Our moms must come to their reality that movement must be made. Nehemiah realized this. In fact, Scriptures say that when Nehemiah heard the news of the destruction of Jerusalem that he sat down and wept. Our moms often come to that point where they realized the destructive path they have walked down for so long only leads to more pain. We weep along side them, and we activate the moment in them towards change. For Nehemiah, he simply cried out to God and asked what he could do. We stand beside our moms as they lay each stone, guiding and directing to each new stone that begins to rebuild their foundational walls.

We teach them that change comes with adversity.

After all, Nehemiah built a wall having to listen to scoffers and critics. They stood by taunting him over his efforts. They jeered at him with their worst insults: “Will they revive the stones out of the heaps of rubbish, and burned ones at that?!? [...] If a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall!” (Nehemiah 4:2-3) The world around our mothers tells them they can't do this, and they will never overcome the odds. Family, friends, birth fathers, boyfriends, and a broken world tells them that their burned rubble will never amount to anything. Maternity homes foster in them a different message--a message of purpose and hope.

We teach them that change enables them to help change others.

It is easy to focus on the monumental task of rebuilding in the present, that we can forget to teach our moms how to activate change for their children and those around them. My favorite Bible character, Queen Esther, followed Nehemiah. A contemporary of Nehemiah, she became a symbol of hope for the still oppressed children of Israel. The odds were stacked against her as she was summoned to the courts of Xerses. It would have been easy for her to fade into the background amongst a harem of women. Instead, she let her faith live outwardly as she found herself in difficult circumstances. Like Nehemiah, she was able listen to God’s prompting and in turn, liberate her people. Our moms have that same opportunity to change the future for their family, to not become stagnant but to constantly cultivate movement towards change. Sharing this vision can help activate urgency.

We teach them that change activates a sense of urgency.

One of the most astonishing facts about Nehemiah is that he finished the walls in just 52 days. If you've ever been to Jerusalem, and seen the size and capacity of the stones you realize the monumental task that was at hand. When a mother walks into our care, there is a sense of urgency: a baby is coming and I can only stay so long. Neither mom nor staff can get caught up in the deception that change will come later, or that we will start when it's convenient. Maybe 52 days is all we have with a mom. Maybe it is more time or maybe it is less time. It simply matters the urgency we operate with during this time.

So what can 52 days do for change and rebuilding in the lives of our mothers? I hope I answer that question with the wisdom and strength of Nehemiah. I pray I weep for the rubble that I learn of, and cry out to God for direction. I pray I share the vision and cultivate change as I lead like a modern Nehemiah.

In short, may our work invite mothers to:

  • Be open to change and begin movement forward.
  • Learn to face adversity.
  • Look to the urgent now as well as to the future of their children.
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At Home for the Holidays

ChristmasHomeDuring this holiday season when we remember a very special birth, maternity homes have the unique opportunity to remember their mission of being "a room at the inn" for vulnerable pregnant women. We asked leaders from across the country to tell us about their favorite part of Christmas serving in a maternity homes.

Here's what they had to say:

​Christmas at Living Grace Homes begins with Advent, and of course our Christmas Open House, where we invite the community in to meet our residents and learn more about the home they live in. The moms participate by baking cookies and engaging with the community, whether it is a sing-along of Christmas Carols or just talking about their hopes and dreams for the future. As we celebrate our 9th Christmas at Living Grace Homes, many former residents will stop in. Perhaps they will bring a gift for a new baby, or perhaps they are still struggling and need to be included in our Christmas. I think Christmas at Living Grace Homes is summed up in our motto, "Hope is Born here!"

Kathleen Miller, Living Grace Home

At Mary's Mantle every day is special, but during the Christmas Season, everything is just a bit brighter! All of our staff come together with our residents and babies and decorate our trees and the rest of the home together. We always strive to make the house feel like "home" for the women we serve and being part of decorating is a simple, but important way, to do that. We set aside a whole afternoon to bake, do a craft, decorate our trees and do a spiritual reflection. For many of the women we serve, this is their first experience doing something like this. It is one of my favorite days of the year at Mary's Mantle.

Katie Montes, Mary's Mantle

One of the most special parts of Christmas at Precious Life is our annual open house, A PRECIOUS CHRISTMAS. Each year we invite the community, donors, residents and their children to come and enjoy the decorated homes, take pictures with Santa, have apple cider and hot cocoa, and visit with friends. Santa always has books and stuffed animals for every child. They get their picture and carolers sing their songs of joy. For many of our residents Christmas is a difficult time and we hope to have them know how blessed and loved and cherished they are. Stockings are delivered, supporters adopt families and we prepare a feast for them later in the month which is all donated by friends of Precious Life.

Theresa Murphy, Precious Life Shelter

At Foundation House, we use every opportunity -- in classes, in the house, and through special activities like parades and advent celebrations -- to help our ladies build new, happy memories of Christmas. To both understand the Savior behind the celebrations as well as to learn how to build happy family traditions for themselves and their children. For many of our girls, this is their first Christmas without pain or trauma. It's important for them to each learn that there is another way to live - and that they can choose the stable, healthy way.

Suzanne Burns, Foundation House Ministries

Christmas is a favorite time of year at Hannah’s House. We are so blessed! Students from a local college come in early December to decorate the house inside and out. Local churches and civic groups request “wish lists” for resident and their babies (born or unborn), assuring that each has gifts under the tree Christmas morning. Other donors fill our storerooms with enough baby items and paper goods see us through until summer. Lest we overlook the real meaning of this season amidst all of this activity, our most cherished tradition is the reading of the Nativity story. Residents and staff pass around the Bible, each reading a verse by flashlight in a room lit only by Christmas lights.

Andrea Popielski, Hannah's House of Michiana

Christmas centers on Jesus and family traditions and because we use a Christ centered, family model, this is a special time of year for our house families to share special traditions with their residents and give them seeds of faith that will hopefully take root and grow as they leave LifeHouse. Of course Mary’s pregnancy being “unplanned” and her giving birth to the Savior of the world truly ministers to the hearts of our girls.

Sue Baumgarten, LifeHouse of Houston

We had a beautiful Winter Wonderland event at our Family Outreach Center this year. There was petting zoo with pony rides. Parents were able to make blankets as gifts for their children. Children made body scrub and Christmas cards for their parents. Volunteers made a pancake breakfast. Families left with a food box and children left with a book and dental supplies. It was a great way to build social connections and create an atmosphere for positive parent/child interactions.

Laura Magruder, Maggie's Place

​Christmas is a special time at SOLVE Maternity Homes. The season helps to further bring our residents into relationships with Jesus Christ, while offering an opportunity (through Christmas) for many of them to see what they have not seen before. We point out at SOLVE's large annual resident Christmas party, that - as they have - Mary had a choice and we ask, "What if Mary had said NO? Would God have then chosen another Mary?" We do not know, but God does! HE knows every path we'll follow and because of this God knew that while Mary would ponder this choosing of her, Mary would respond - as they have - in the affirmative. This revelation is a special programmatic component for SOLVE, best seen through Christmas.

Brian Kerwin, SOLVE Maternity Homes

Yesterday, a young couple was in my office to learn more about our adoption process. One of our 15-year old residents was in the middle of decorating our Christmas tree and she had beautiful Christmas music playing. After I had finished my meeting with the young couple and they were walking out, the young woman doing the decorating asked if they were by any chance wanting to adopt a child and they said "Yes, that is why we came here today." She said to them, "Several weeks ago I had a beautiful son and I placed him for adoption. It was the most wonderful thing that I could have ever done--for myself, my son and the adoptive family!! I will pray that you will have the opportunity to love a child as much as the adoptive family loves my son."

It was a small Christmas miracle to hear her to tell story with such conviction.

Later that day, I received an email from the adoptive couple. It read: "Thanks for meeting with us. When J. and I left, we both were overwhelmed with emotion. He turned to me and said, 'This is where we are supposed to be.' We both know this is only the first step of a long journey and it might not end with the outcome we're hoping for. W are just grateful for an opportunity to potentially help a mother give her child a good home."

I thank God for all the "God Moments" -- just like this one -- that I have been given from my work with Lifehouse!!

Joan Smith, Lifehouse

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Hope in the Face of Addiction

by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistHopeSmall

There is no doubt. The situations that women are bringing into maternity homes, pregnancy centers, and adoption agencies have grown more and more complex. Addiction and drug seeking behaviors have become more of a regular occurrence often in conjunction with childhood trauma, criminal histories, sexual abuse, and more.

In an effort to think deeply about how to best serve women who wrestle with addiction, the Leadership Council of the National Maternity Housing Coalition sat down with leaders from Amethyst, a healing community for drug and alcohol dependent women, located in Columbus, Ohio.

The Amethyst model focuses on teaching women how to support one another, how “to do community” as Ginnny O'Keeffe, the Founding CEO noted. This emphasis on relationship is deep in the origins of Amethyst. O'Keeffe recalled the founding of Amethyst as a community of visionary women who came together "as they were getting well" to support the unique needs of other women in recovery.

Sara Niemeyer, the Director of Clinical Services, brought attention to one of these unique components: "The drive to be a good mother is deep in women, even if she has struggled as a mother due to her addiction" she described. "In fact, one of the final aspects of denial that a woman in recovery must face is her faults as a mother." O'Keeffe chimed in, "That can be used for good though! If a woman won't enter a program for her own sake, she may be convinced to enter for the sake of her children."

Amethyst has long been aware of the relationship between trauma and addiction and keeps up to date on research and new findings. Outlining the stages of the Amethyst program, Niemeyer noted that women may be able to address addiction issues (i.e. relapse plan, knowledge of triggers) more quickly than they can address traumas. "Self-regulation techniques allow women to control the physiological response that kicks in when trauma is triggered in women, " she taught us. "Self-regulation skills like deep breathing and stretching are extremely effective at getting women out of freeze, flight, or fight mode." "For women, addressing grief and loss is the gateway to addressing traumas," O'Keeffe added. "As women we have to learn to feel our feelings in healthy ways."

Pregnancy help organizations often wrestle with what they can do without skilled practitioners in addiction recovery on staff. When that question was posed to the Amethyst team, O'Keeffe was quick to respond, "Clinicians, peers in recovery, supportive individuals...ALL have a role in recovery. It’s a team—use whatever tools you can!"

The discussion begun with the powerful testimony of one of the Amethyst clients. She began by sharing the events of her childhood and summed up by saying, "I lost my voice." It was evident to all in attendance that she had re-found her voice at Amethyst, speaking of her future with clarity and hope. In her story, the housing leaders in attendance heard echoes from the situations of many women they had served. And they carried home a message of hope.

To learn more about this program, please refer to their website: www.amethyst-inc.org/.

Additional Advice from the Staff of Amethyst

  • Be aware of pain medication after birth as a problem area for those with addiction.
  • Get releases from all past treatment programs as part of intake.
  • Women don’t do “street homelessness” the same way that men do. They often find multiple people to bunk with.
  • Often the biggest fear in entering a treatment program for the mother is that she will lose her children. A key message to communicate is “we can help you keep your children.”
  • Encourage and provide opportunities for women to continue to come together as a community once they leave the program.
  • Smoking triggers the same pleasure center in the brain as does alcohol and drugs and thus, is not allowed and treated as part of treatment at Amethyst. The program provides nicotine replacement.
  • Have an attitude of “what has happened to you?” rather than “what did you do?” Much of women’s trauma is related to authority figures. As women are interacting with authority figures, it may be a trigger.
  • If a woman doesn’t fully report traumas in her life, it may be that she is not sharing due to trust issues OR that she does not remember.
  • The clients are the best source of information on new trends in drug-seeking behaviors and what is being used.

Looking Forward by Looking Back

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:

  1. A maternity home and adoption agency have close organizational alignment (one org, deeply related orgs, etc.) in which women are interacting deeply with both organizations.
  2. Maternity homes bring in outside experts to present info on adoption during group seminars or one-on-one meetings.
  3. Maternity homes use a curriculum (i.e. Baby & Me, independently developed) within the house to present adoption information.
  4. Maternity homes address misconceptions moms have (e.g. foster care is not the same as adoption) directly via some other educational opportunity or awareness campaign.
  5. Maternity homes actively develop policies and programming for support of birth moms (i.e. recruit birth mothers as volunteers, have birth mom support groups, have adoption awareness in policies, etc.) Additionally, some homes offer alternative post-birth housing (i.e. a host home) for a mom to live in rather than returning to home after giving birth.

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.

If you would like to contribute your thoughts on this topic, please don't hesitate to reach out to Mary Peterson, NMHC, Facilitator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Building a Culture of Adoption: It Starts at Home

by Sarah Saccone, Program Director, Lamb of God Maternity HomeOption

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.

  1. Use positive adoption language. Stay current with the words and phrasing that honors adoption as a heroic choice. Examples of this are placing or making an adoption plan vs giving up, parenting vs keeping, birth parent vs real parent.
  2. Vet those coming into the home. Screen volunteers to be sure they are pro-adoption or at the very least, able to keep their opinions to themselves. Have regular training for staff so that they can speak about adoption with respect and ease.
  3. Use personal experiences and stories with extreme caution. Allow each woman to experience adoption in her own way. She does not need to know that you were married at her age and made it work or that your cousin adopted children overseas who have significant challenges or that you watched an adoption story gone wrong on television.
  4. Discuss clearly with each resident, upon admission, about their thoughts on parenting and placing and their ability to honor others’ decisions. Uphold an environment of respect for each mom's decisions and teach birth moms how to be advocates of their decision.
  5. Baby showers are lovely but can be painful. While adoption-minded women may enjoy having baby items to send along with their child’s placement, there may be more appropriate ways to “shower” adoption-minded women (i.e. new pajamas, perfume, educational supplies.) Perhaps, there should also be the opportunity to opt out of the shower all together. Consider holding baby showers in a neutral location.
  6. Note visual cues within the home. Look around your home at the photos, quotes, and artwork. Is it strongly suggestive of mother and child? Does each room come pre-stocked with baby items? Be sure that the message the home is promoting implicitly communicates support for adoption as a possible outcome.
  7. Think of ways to make a woman who placed her baby feel loved, special, and honored when she comes home from the hospital. For example, a welcome basket, weighted Teddy Bear, or necklace with baby's name engraved may be appropriate gifts.
  8. Match the adoption preparation with the parenting preparation. While women who are parenting go to parenting classes, women who are placing go to support groups. Bring in adoptive parents and adopted children to give their testimony. Find appropriate education and support for their decision. Create or use appropriate curriculum for each population.
  9. Be mindful and empathetic. Don't gush over a resident’s baby right in front of a woman who is placing. Know that this will happen often so it doesn't need to also happen with their mentors and most trusted influences.
  10. Acknowledge birth mom’s joy, loss, suffering, and strength. It's ok to talk about adoption! Women who choose adoption should know it will be the hardest decision of their lives and one that brings them much joy and strength. Rituals and other supportive procedures at key moments help to honor the individuals involved.

SarahSacconeSarah 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.

Meet 3 Housing Leaders

by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialist

Angie Hammond

Angie Hammond has spent 27 years in pro-life work including leadership in a pregnancy center, medical clinic, child-placing agency, and three maternity homes. Years ago, as the president of a women's ministry at her church, she heard about a pregnancy center that was opening. By the 2nd training, she was on staff as the outreach coordinator. She has recently retired as the Executive Director of Hope Mansion and is now using her experience to advise other homes. When asked about her favorite part of the work of maternity housing, she noted "My greatest joy is seeing a young woman–abandoned, rejected, and abused–being given the opportunity for God to transform her life." On behalf of Heartbeat, thank you for your many years of service, Angie! Blessed retirement!! Angie can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (972) 814-5502. https://www.hopemansion.com/


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 and Kirk Delaney

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/


Leading in a Home

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."


What do these wonderful leaders have to say about the mindset of a leader?

Angie Hammond

  • "Do things, not like another leader, do them in the way that God designed for you. That means leaders must pray."
  • "Keep your cool and keep it simple. In the face of difficult situations, operate in grace. When the questions are big, ask yourself: 1) Is what we are doing honoring God? and 2) Is it in her best interest?"
  • "Ask your staff lots of questions. Empower your team and give them ownership. Invite their total involvement. Make sure that your staff have everything that they need to fulfill their calling."

Sarah Saccone

  • "Understand the reality of staff experience and fill their cup! Show gratitude; allow them to do things that help them to get re-energized in the deeper purpose."
  • "Encourage your staff not to take things personally. Most of us can't even imagine the life of the moms prior to coming into the home. It's their past and their stories talking when they say awful things."

Grace Delaney

  • "Establish clear-cut job descriptions and roles and have detailed policies and procedures. Then, when difficult situations arise, you are able to default to policies so that it isn't personal and there isn't a battle of the wills."
  • "The best leaders are the ones who empower other people—who don't try to do it all. A big part of our success is partnering in our community in a significant way—with PRCs, with individuals, with the pro-life community, and beyond. Maternity homes provide a missing link. We rely on relationships and partnerships to be effective."


Power Conversations


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 format allows learning from one another in live-conversations as well as an online forum.  If you aren't able to jump into the conversation live, a recording of the call and opportunities for ongoing online discussion will be available in the Heartbeat Academy. Register to access the archive of past conversations here!   

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:

  • May 25:  Fires and Falls and Floods: Oh, My!  Insurance Policies and Claims
  • June 1:  Welcoming the Sojourner: Immigration Issues and Language Barriers
  • June 8:   When the Helpers are Hurting: Staff Triggers
  • June 15:  Motivational Interviewing Skills:  Asking So She Will Answer
  • June 22:   Having a Healthy Home: Prevention and Policies

*All calls begin at 12 PM EST


Click Here to Register for a Single Call for $9.95 Each

Click Here to Register for all Five Calls at a $5.00 Savings!


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Power Up This Summer With Heartbeat, NMHC


PowerConver4Thinking 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:

  • July 10: Smooth Departures
  • July 17: Intake Methods
  • July 24: Outbreak Prevention
  • July 31: Difficult Departures
  • Aug 7: Transportation Norms
  • Aug 14: Chore Systems

All sessions start at 2 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time)

Call-in Number: (559) 726-1300
Participant Access Code: 705126 


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