Ten percent of all college-age women become pregnant each year.* Where are they?
Your genuine and caring heart just bursts with ideas for the student/mom-to-be sitting across from you facing the positive pregnancy test. You acknowledge, "This is difficult, but you can do it, and we'll help!" Before you gush forth with answers to assuage her every concern, know a few things about her world — that of the college campus.
The obstacles to parenting a baby on a college campus are great. The "choice" that you so much want to offer your divine appointment presents more challenges for her than you may realize.
"They say I have a free choice. But without housing on campus for my baby and me, without on-site daycare, without maternity coverage in my health insurance, it sure doesn't feel like I have much of a choice." http://www.feministsforlife.org
Be aware that a client who tells you these things is not looking for excuses to not carry. In the time since she missed her period and before she meets you, she will have sought out these answers. Take careful notice of her pained expression as she relates to you. You can feel her conflict of not wanting to abort while considering solutions offered that seem right for someone else, but not for her.
Most students lose housing options when they have a baby. A student is not permitted to keep a baby in the dormitory environment or in most on-campus housing. Student apartments, which often house multiple roommates in cramped conditions, are not suitable for a baby. Most of these apartments have showers, not full baths, and most do not feature kitchens.
Off-campus housing aimed at the student population is not set up for the needs of parenting students. Many renters simply desire the financial benefit of placing as many students as possible into their apartment houses. You must also consider that the atmosphere of smoking, drinking, and other activities (legal and illegal) is not suitable for a baby. Furthermore, renting is expensive in a college town even for non-students.
On-site daycare is not always available. Students in a nearby college told me that the school had plans to close a student daycare center, providing one only for staff. The student body was against it, and it remains open. In larger cities, locating a daycare provider near campus is probable. In the suburban and rural areas, however, the chances are slim.
Her health insurance, many times, will not include maternity coverage. Surprisingly, in my region of the country many insurance plans, where the student is a dependent, cover prenatal care. A student who does not have health insurance coverage for pregnancy is eligible for medical assistance (Medicaid), for prenatal care, and later for insurance for her baby.
Speak knowingly of the options you offer her. Make sure you have accurate awareness of the services available in your city, town, and college campus.
Here are some short- and long-term ideas for your center to consider:
Housing and Childcare
Check campus housing resources for family suites. Some colleges have a few with full baths and kitchens. You and your client may not always hear about them.
Keep in mind that a freshman student will be less knowledgeable about what her campus offers than an upperclassman will.
For a client with her own transportation, consider renting out of town or off the main "square" where housing will be more affordable. (Have a dependable car you would like to sell? Sell it to a client.)
Search your church and donor contacts for a retired couple or single female who can provide safe and affordable housing during the school year. Maybe your client can assist with household chores and upkeep as part of her rent. (Keep in mind necessary and appropriate boundaries for all parties involved. Some training from your center may be in order.)
Check with your county for subsidized daycare providers in your community. Keep the list updated. Providers add and drop frequently. Offer to go on an interview with your client as she seeks. Educate her on what to look for in a childcare provider.
Encourage center friends and donors to consider becoming subsidized daycare providers.
Establish relationships with local churches that offer daycare. Perhaps they will give a student discount if referred by your center.
Seek out donors with a heart for this need that will financially support a student mom for a semester or the school year for childcare.
Start a designated fund for client childcare. Ask vacation Bible school groups, youth groups, and Sunday school classes to support the fund throughout the year.
Consider establishing a maternity and/or student mother home in your town. This is no small task, but it is surely possible with God!
Encourage your client to involve her family and the baby's dad and his family in these plans. Many times resources are available for your client, but she cannot ask. Perhaps she can introduce you, her peer counselor, to her family and these ideas can be explored together.
Get that student group on campus that supports your center to build awareness programs highlighting the needs of parenting students. Rally for support and take good care to encourage pregnant students. They feel very lonely on campus.
In any of these endeavors, pray without ceasing. As you consider this investment in your client's future, you impress the very heart of Jesus into two precious lives — that of your client and that of her pre-born child. Blessings as you serve in the unique and dynamic world of the college campus.
*Alan Gutmaccher Institute
Marcia Warmkessel lives near Virginville, Pennsylvania, (We are NOT kidding!). She served as a PCC director and administrator for over 13 years. Marcia now mentors incarcerated and newly-paroled women and mothers with those same life-affirming truths shared in PCC outreach.