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Searching for Home Sweet Maternity Home

April 2002
By: Paula Smith
Housing is often one of the highest needs for clients who are homeless or in dangerous living environments. However, there are many less obvious reasons a client might benefit from a maternity home setting.

One of the keys to having a strong pregnancy resource center is the ability to coordinate the center's services with other services within the community in order to help meet all of the client's needs.

Housing is often one of the highest needs for clients who are homeless or in dangerous living environments. However, there are many less obvious reasons a client might benefit from a maternity home setting.

Here are some reasons a girl may want to consider a maternity home setting:
• Potential abuse from the birthfather, the boyfriend, or even her parents
• Pressure from the family or the boyfriend to have an abortion
• The need to allow "space" and time for the healing of family relationships
• An unstable home life
• Limited life skills and decision-making skills
• The temptation of drug or alcohol abuse
• The need to save money for housing and other needs

Of course, there are many others—each client has her own unique needs and goals.

Some of the basic needs that every maternity home meets are housing, nutritious meals, medical care, transportation, supervision, and counseling. Beyond these, each home will have its own programs, which are individualized to best fit each client's needs.

Counselors work with each resident on a variety of issues according to her individual needs. These issues may include her decision to parent her child or to develop an adoption plan. The client may need to address relationship issues with her parents and the birthfather. Counselors may arrange sessions with the birthparents individually or together. Effective counseling, in combination with the time that the mother spends apart from stressful influences, often sets the stage for the restoration of many of these relationships.

The maternity home environment also provides an optimal setting for developing life skills. Communication techniques, household management, budgeting, the balancing of multiple responsibilities, and many other skills can all be modeled by the houseparents and taught to the girls within the setting of a healthy family.

What's more, the girl may be able to continue her education while she is in the home. Job training may also be available or arranged during her stay. Most programs help the girl through the job-hunting process and teach her skills that can be used during the interview and on the job. The program may also help her develop a plan to save money that she can use after she leaves the home.

For many girls, their time at the home may be their first experience living in a Christian family with two parents. The presence of a Christian husband and father is an invaluable example to the girl. She will be able to see firsthand how a couple should relate to each other according to God's plan for marriage, and she will personally experience a positive father-child relationship. This experience is vital for her future and for her plans for her child's future.

Many of the skills that young mothers should learn can be modeled by the houseparents of a maternity home and taught to the girls within the setting of a healthy family.

She will also be able to explore a relationship with her heavenly Father in a deeper way. While pregnancy centers are doing a terrific job with presenting the Gospel and discipling clients, the maternity home setting can provide a family context for living out the Gospel in relationship to others, day in and day out.

As you help your clients determine if a maternity home is right for them, it would be helpful to have available some basic information about the homes in your area. The gathering of this information would make a great take-home project for a volunteer.

In doing this research, consider homes within 100 miles or a 3-hour drive. Most girls will want to stay fairly close to home to allow for visits from family and for family participation in counseling sessions.

It is important to recognize that not all maternity homes provide the same level of services. A few organizations may offer only the basic services of housing and meals. However, most homes provide more than the basics and may offer other programs specific to their mission.

The following questions are useful for gathering information about each individual home:
• How long has the ministry been in existence?
• How long has the current staff been in place?
• What are the age requirements, and what is the average age of residents?
• Is it a family setting or an institutional setting?
• What are the requirements for coming to the home?
• What programs are offered, and what do they include?
• What is the parenting-adoption ratio?
• What follow-up services are available?
• How can the center's counselor continue to be involved with the client?
• What sort of after-care is available? (If mothers are allowed to return to the home with their newborns, the environment will most likely influence a girl's decision towards parenting and away from adoption.)

You should also request references of families who were served by the maternity home.

Another great way to learn about the maternity homes in your area is to visit them. By developing a relationship with the homes, you will have greater insight into which one might be the best fit for each client, and you will become better able to help each client make the transition to the home.

Your client is looking to you for wisdom, encouragement, and practical help as she is faced with making decisions that will affect the course of her life and the life of her child. A maternity home is not the right choice for every client at your center, but for many it can make all the difference in how successfully they walk through their pregnancy and into their future.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Paula E. Smith is Product Development Director for Loving and Caring, Inc., an international ministry providing support, training, and materials to life-affirming organizations. Loving and Caring has developed program manuals and provides consultation services for housing ministries and pregnancy centers. For more information, contact Loving and Caring, 1905 Olde Homestead Lane, Lancaster, PA 17601. Phone: (717) 293-3230. E-mail: mail@lovingandcaring.org.

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