Another round of media attacks against Pregnancy Resource Centers (PRCs) is making its appearance via Al Jazeera media. It can be found at http://thecrisisproject.org/. In this "investigation," reporters went undercover to several PRCs and secretly videotaped counseling sessions. We encourage you to share this video with your staff, volunteers, and board to help them understand how important it is to train, operate, and supervise under the highest standards of integrity.
BE SURE THAT YOU ARE DOING EVERYTHING WITH THE UTMOST INTEGRITY.
PRCs across the nation are reporting increased numbers of suspected fake clients coming in. It is important that you train your staff to be able to identify and handle these situations. The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) advises that PRCs immediately do the following:
Evaluate your current operations and policies to be sure that you are doing everything with the utmost integrity, especially in the counseling room. Review the legal advice and counsel NIFLA has provided in The Legal Primer for Pregnancy Help Centers and all of the Legal Tips that NIFLA has published on this topic. This is a large body of legal material, and it may take some time to review all of it. If, after reviewing this material, there is an area in which you find your center is weak, make organizational changes to address the particular legal concerns raised. Of specific importance in the Primer is Chapter Five, which deals with legal issues in the counseling room. This material should be reviewed with your counselors, and if any policy changes are needed, make them.
Train your receptionists and client advocates to respond honestly and factually to every inquiry. If the telephone caller asks if you do abortions, clearly answer that you do not perform or refer for abortions.
Do not counsel or provide medical advice over the telephone. Your goal is to have the client come into the office to receive personal services.
Utilize pamphlets and other educational information that are current and accurate. All references should be documented by reliable sources, especially when dealing with issues such as the abortion breast cancer link and post abortion syndrome. All material should be reviewed and approved by your medical professionals and, if you are not a medical clinic, by an advisory medical doctor. (See the NIFLA's April 2010 Legal Tips for more information.) ABC brochures that are well-documented and created by doctors at the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute can be found at: http://www.bcpinstitute.org/home.htm.
Make sure that your client advocates are thoroughly trained utilizing a reputable counselor training program. After training is completed and they are approved for counseling, continue to monitor their performance with regular oversight, supervision, and evaluation. Monthly staff meetings for continuing education, training, and accountability are imperative.
Review your Disclaimer Clause on your Intake sheet. Here is sample language that would be appropriate for a Pregnancy Resource Medical Clinic. It can be adjusted for a non-medical center:
This facility is a non-profit medical clinic. All of our services are free. The medical services are provided by licensed medical professionals, mostly volunteers. Your pregnancy test is 97 percent to 99 percent accurate; however, a physician must confirm the results of your test. Whether the test is positive or negative, you should consult with a licensed physician. Our volunteer counselors are lay people, not necessarily licensed or degreed personnel. The counseling obtained here is not intended as a substitute for professional counseling. All information is kept confidential except if child abuse reporting laws apply or if we believe or hear that you are in danger of hurting yourself or others. Our clinic does not perform or refer for abortion. The pregnancy center does not consent to any type of recording, taping, or videotaping. I have read and understood the above and hereby authorize the staff of this clinic to render whatever services are necessary for my care.
Clearly communicate to your clients/patients that you do not consent to any kind of recording, taping or videotaping. This should be clearly stated on the intake sheet that she signs and on postings in the waiting and counseling rooms. Each state has different laws about the ability to record a confidential conversation. Some states require the consent of only one party. Others require the consent of all the parties to the conversation.
For example, California requires the consent of all parties to the conversation and imposes a $2,500 fine or imprisonment for any violation:
Penal Code Section 632. (a) Every person who, intentionally and without the consent of all parties to a confidential communication, by means of any electronic amplifying or recording device, eavesdrops upon or records the confidential communication, whether the communication is carried on among the parties in the presence of one another or by means of a telegraph, telephone, or other device, except a radio, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand five hundred dollars ($2,500), or imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding one year, or in the state prison, or by both that fine and imprisonment.
Note: To see what the law is in your state, go to: http://www.ncsl.org/issues-research/telecom/electronic-surveillance-laws.aspx
TREAT ANY SUSPECTED FAKE CLIENT/PATIENT WITH COURTESY AND STRAIGHT-FORWARDNESS.
Schedule a NIFLA board training. Generally, the training is for ten hours over two days and will discuss numerous issues and "best practices" that should be followed. Training will also be tailored to meet specific issues with which your PRC is currently dealing. For more details, including costs, call the NIFLA office or email us at NIFLA@aol.com.
Be prepared, courteous, and accurate. Treat any suspected fake client/patient with courtesy and straight-forwardness. Document any fake clients on an Incident Report. Utilize Exit Surveys.
Most importantly, call NIFLA with any concerns and reports of suspected fake clients/patients.
Thomas A. Glessner is President of NIFLA (www.nifla.org) and can be contacted at 540-372-3930 or NIFLA@aol.com.