Displaying items by tag: housing

Simple and Good

by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistChicks
Heartbeat International

My young nieces are on a chicken kick. They have hatched eggs, studied the various chicken breeds, and dreamt about being chicken farmers. When I catch them on the phone, chirping sounds fill the background.  With a little chick cupped in their hands, they rattle on and on about this chicken's unique features, filled with stories of how cute it is now and how many eggs it will lay in the future.  

Their love is a testimony to new life and springtime. It is simple and good.

The egg is a symbol of Easter, often found in religious artwork to indicate life springing forth from the darkness of the tomb. That symbolism has spilled over into the egg-dyeing, egg-hunting, and chocolate egg-eating traditions that we associate with Easter.

And in some ways, the egg echos the work of maternity housing. The women we serve often arrive trapped in the darkness of their lives but literally filled with life and possibility.  We fuss to create a little corner that is safe and cozy for them; we fluff and fill their space with items to communicate excitement about their presence.  We attempt to keep that mom in the warmth of a lived Christian experience and do regular check-ins to see how things are going.

We hope and pray in anticipation that new life will spring forth. We trust that renewal and redemption is possible in her life, just as we seek it in our own life. We accompany her as she awaits the new life that she carries and serve as a model of rejoicing and celebrating in the preciousness of that life.

May your egg traditions help you to remember the joy of life springing forth. May this season of Easter and spring and renewal and possibility have an impact on your life. May people look at the way that you love within your work and be inspired. May our hearts be simple and good!

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Belong, Believe, Behave

Have you been catching Mary's Quick Tips on Facebook? Join the National Maternity Housing Coalition Facebook group to keep getting tips like this one from Mary Peterson.

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Getting Started with Social Media

by Becky Zemlicka, Mindz Eye MarketingSocialMediaPhoneLaptop

Whether your organization is already on social media, or you’re feeling pressured to join, here are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.

Where to begin.

The main social media platforms where your audience will expect to find you are Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. There are definitely others, but as of right now, these platforms are the most popular. However, with the current political influences on social media, many users are switching to other platforms, so it’s something to keep an eye on.

What to know about Facebook.

Facebook is the most popular platform for organizations to engage with (right now), and is the most user-friendly platform to manage. Facebook has earned the reputation of being the “middle-aged moms” platform, but that’s not actually true. According to Facebook, their demographics are 19.3% male users and 13.2% female users between the ages of 25 and 34 years. However, women tend to be more “active” on Facebook than men, hence the reputation. Regardless, your content on Facebook should be aimed primarily to supporters and not clients. That’s not to say you shouldn’t make any client-focused posts. You will have some client-aged followers, and it’s still good for your supporters to see how you talk to and interact with your clients.

What to Post:

I often hear the statement, “We’re on social media, but we don’t know what to post or how often.” While my answer could be an article (or book) of its own, here is some general guidance:

  • Keep social media social. Your followers want to hear what’s going on inside the walls of your organization and how you’re making an impact. You’ll get the most engagement on posts such as staff anniversaries, client testimonials and accomplishments, staff/client events, decorating for holidays, etc. Always include a photo.
  • Educate your followers. While the majority of your posts should be social in nature, it’s also a good idea to educate your supporters about your organization and its services. Post answers to some of the most common questions you receive about your organization; dispel misperceptions people have about what you do or who you serve. Be careful not to get too “soap-boxy,” but education should definitely be a part of your mix. Always include a photo.
  • Include a photo. Always. Posts with photos will be seen by more of your followers, and photos with human faces are 38 percent more likely to receive likes than photos with no faces. They’re also 32 percent more likely to attract comments.*
  • Plan and post often. I’ve heard it said that you can’t post too often. I don’t agree with that, but most of you have so much on your plates, you won’t error on the side of posting too often. I suggest no less than one post per week – more often, if possible. However, plan your posts. Develop a monthly plan to ensure you have a good mix of social posts, education, events, testimonials, etc. Having a plan will also help ensure you don’t forget to snap a photo during your next potluck or when a big donation of diapers comes in the door. I’m not saying you can’t have impromptu posts – you definitely should – but have a flexible plan so social media stays top-of-mind.

*Source: Georgia Tech News Center


BeckyZemlicka 2017 smaller 1Becky Zemlicka is a speaker and owner of Mindz Eye Marketing, a virtual agency founded in 2001 that specializes in marketing, advertising and social media for small businesses and non-profit organizations. Zemlicka is also a co-founder of Ruth Harbor Ministries in Des Moines, Iowa – a home and program for young moms facing unplanned pregnancies or parenting young children.

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Strategic Planning as Worship Work

by Sue BaumgartenStrategicPlanning

Thinking strategically is not one of my top strengths. By nature, I’m a connector and a communicator, an activator and a mentor. But with almost 3 decades of board service, (respectful of term limits and built-in breaks) and also serving as an Executive Director for a few years, I am no stranger to Strategic Planning. And, I currently serve on the National Maternity Housing Coalition (NMHC) leadership council and we’re in the middle of Strategic Planning as I write this.

Strategic planning is a mandatory exercise for ministries and is probably the most important organizational document to have outside of your mission/vision statements. Strategic planning helps your board and staff have a road map that looks out into the future – hopefully 3, 5 even 10 years and says, “This is where we’re hoping to go.” Your strategic plan then breaks that hope into manageable pieces and allows your organization to make forward motion toward your destination. Strategic plans are living documents that can be adjusted annually so don’t be afraid to have BHAG’s (Big Hope-filled Amazing Goals, using my verbiage)!

In light of Covid-19 in 2020, I’m sure ministries in the middle of year 3 of a 5-year plan will need to revisit their Strategic Plan and make some adjustments. Your Strategic Plan is not just an internal document. It can be shared out in your community as you and your board members meet with potential church partners, foundations and individuals.

Preparation for your strategic planning session(s) is critical. Here’s some basic steps to give the process structure and to seek the Lord throughout the process.

  1. Prepare deeply. Fast and pray for wisdom and clarity. Prioritize hearing from the Lord and His wisdom over the knowledge of men. Familiarize your group with tools for discernment – Mastering the Art of Presence Based Leadership by Keith Yoder and Pursuing God’s Will Together by Ruth Haley Barton are two that I like. Practice Listening Prayer.

  2. Gather the right people and supplies. Strategic planning should include key staff leaders and the board of directors. It should encompass every aspect of the ministry – staffing, program, finances, development. A third-party facilitator can also be very helpful to the process. Be sure those with talent in strategy are active and engaged participants. White board and dry erase markers, flip charts and markers, sticky pads and pens – give people the ability to write ideas and brainstorm!

  3. Create space for a rich conversation. Don’t rush! Consider your meeting time a time of worship, a moment of worship/work. Incorporate music into your meeting. Guard against “book-end praying” – just once at the beginning of your meeting and at the end. The Lord is always speaking through His Holy Spirit and His Word–allow space and time to hear from Him! Strategic planning deserves plenty of time to let members of the group discuss, pray, take breaks, brainstorm, review. It may require several meetings.

  4. Assess the current situation. Doing a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is a fast and easy tool. Reviewing your mission/vision statements are key. Is your organization walking out it’s mission? Mission Drift can happen so easily. Look deeply at what is happening within your organization.

  5. Go through a Goal Setting Process. At the end it should be clear: From What/To What/By When/By Whom. Be sure to know who’s bucket of responsibility the goal falls into – Executive Director, Program Director, Board Chair, etc. Another tool related to goal-setting is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely.

What a good and Godly work we have been called to! What a joy to seek the wisdom of God through strategic planning so that our work can continue to give a witness to life, redemption, and the very goodness of God! As you think about the future of your ministry, may you experience it with awe and reverence in a posture of worship. Heartbeat offers Strategic Planning resources and as an on-site consultation session. Click here for more about Strategic Planning.

Additional Resources:

Knowing Your Strengths

SMART Goal Setting

Vision Traction Organizer

Good to Great by Jim Collins

Traction – Get a Grip on your Business by Gino Wickman

Mission Drift by Peter Greer

Sue Baumgarten has served on the Board of Directors (as well as a variety of other roles) for LifeHouse of Houston since 1993. For more information about LifeHouse of Houston, click here: https://lifehousehouston.org/

3 Key Tips for Increasing Cultural Competency

by Ellen Foell, International Program Specialist, Heartbeat International and Faith Bohlin, Program Manager, Aid for WomenCulturalCompetence

In November 2020, Ellen Foell and Faith Bohlin engaged in an informal conversation on the topic of increasing cultural competency as part of the “Power Conversation” series. This article is a loose representation of that conversation, which is available in its entirety here

Be humble.

  • There is general cultural competency (e.g. like exercising humility and understanding that you don’t understand) as well as specific cultural competencies related to being knowledgeable about traditions, customs, and principles of specific ethnic groups. Start with general principles and then learn about the specific cultures that God has placed you in.
  • Have the humility to apologize when necessary and to seek forgiveness.
  • Ask permission -- Can I hug you? Can I touch your baby?  It is a signal of respect and humility.

Listen very deeply and ask good questions.

  • Things like volume of communication, hand gestures, pace of interaction vary significantly. Take your cues from the person you are interacting with.  As Ellen Foell described it, “Listen with your eyes. Mirror what you are seeing.”
  • Here are some sample questions for your consideration:
    • What would normally happen in your community / culture?
    • What is customary around ____ (pregnancy, birth, birthdays, etc.)?
    • Can you please explain _____ to me?
    • Is there a hidden consequence for moving into our program? For participating with our organization? Does it affect your family?
    • Teach me your favorite food or favorite _____.

Be aware of and celebrate differences.

  • Some cultures are based in honor/shame principles which affect everything from identity, family dynamics, how I present myself in my community, and more. Having an “punishment mentality” (i.e. if you do this, I will do this) with your organizational culture may have unintended consequences for those from a honor/shame based tradition.
  • “I like to use the language of ‘tribe’ (i.e. we are a tribe) for our homes. A tribe is composed of multiple family units, each with their own traditions and ways of doing things.  For me, that is a much more accurate description of what we are creating in our housing program,” described Faith Bohlin. Food is an easy way to explore those differences and celebrate them as a community activity.
  • One effective starting place would be to investigate the “culture of poverty.” As Faith described, “It encompasses all ethnic cultures and really is a culture all to its own that has a big impact of the vulnerable women we serve.”

ComptencyTable

Recommended Resources

Ruby Payne.  A Framework for Understanding Poverty and/or Bridges out of Poverty

Duane Elmer.  Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility

https://www.globalcognition.org/blog/

Celebrating Post-Residential Care

by Mary Peterson, LAS, Housing SpecialistAretha
Heartbeat International

Aretha arrived to Maggie's Place in March 2017, just eight weeks pregnant with her daughter Zoe. She arrived with over 20 years of drug and alcohol use and a history of prostitution. “I came from chaos and darkness and stepped into a sanctuary of peace,” she described. “It was the love and sacrifice that the staff gave me that made me feel like I was part of a family.”

During her time, she described running “home” – to the maternity home – when temptations for relapse were high. “I was given time to grow and heal, to be loved and encouraged” she said, “I loved just eating together and celebrating one another.” One special memory involves watching one of the staff members read to a baby. “I had never seen that,” Aretha remembered, “It made me start collecting books and now, I read to my daughter all the time.”

“For me, having the ongoing services after I moved out played a huge role in my sobriety,” Aretha spoke with conviction. After moving into a transitional apartment, she participated in parenting groups, ongoing therapy, Mommy & Me groups, and attachment groups, all offered as ongoing services for former residents. Aretha mentioned that the feeling of connection, the feeling of being a part of a family, was vital to her. The maternity home had become her family and leaving that home environment was tough. “I just decided to take advantage of anything they offered,” she joked. “I needed it. In fact, as we would drive up to the outreach center, Zoe would say, ‘we are home!’” 

“At a Christmas event, I remember looking at the staff handing out gifts, and I thought to myself, ‘I want that.’" In November 2020, that dream was realized when Aretha became a full-time member of the outreach staff associated with the post-residential program of Maggie’s Place. “It’s a dream come true,” she described, “I get to give and be a part of what they are doing here.”

“I know how important it was for me to feel celebrated; I loved watching my daughter be genuinely loved.” Aretha noted, “Now, I mimic what I learned. I celebrate other women and encourage them to stay connected.”  She works with women that have reunification cases and helps as an administrative assistant for the outreach program. Aretha closed with this thought, “When the women are in a hard place, there is comfort that comes from someone that has lived and can acknowledge a piece of their story, their journey.”

The National Maternity Housing Coalition recently released a new White Paper on post-residential programming, Loving Beyond the Home.  It features case studies from Our Lady’s Inn and Mary’s Mantle and outlines programmatic considerations for those exploring the expansion of a formal program to follow residential services.  To download the White Paper and read more about the impact of post-residential programming, click here.

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Emotional Intelligence: Responding with Purpose

by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialistbrain heart brain icon emotiona
Heartbeat International

Many housing programs are exploring the topic of emotional intelligence, or "EQ", helping the mothers to identify and name their emotions. "So many of our residents are emotionally raw," Kathleen Miller of Living Grace Home described, "they don't realize that their emotional responses may be keeping them in a bad cycle." One of the principles of EQ is that emotions show up in our heart, head, and body. To experience healing in those areas, emotions have to be recognized and addressed. "The residents know sad, mad, angry, happy," Beckie Perez of 29:Eleven Maternity Home expressed, "but, when they have more descriptive words for their feelings, they can see them more clearly." She continued, "As the saying goes, 'name it to tame it'. We want the moms to respond with purpose and control rather than impulsively."

One such teaching resource comes from Angie May, the trainer and coach of Kairos Koaching. She has developed a presenter's guide, worksheets, and informational cards as a tool for homes to use to introduce the practical skills associated with Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. "It's a practical model that gives usable tools for organizations and can be a game changer in meeting the real needs of women," she described. The model focuses on four key areas: mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and interpersonal skills.

"Not all programs can have a therapist on staff," she reflected. "This program allows clients to build life skills based on the therapeutic model of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy but using the existing staff." Lynnette Carter from Living Hope Centers agrees, "We were struggling to help our residents learn these skills without a professional counselor on staff. This content helped us figure out a critical piece that we were missing."  

An example of one skill that May teaches is strengthening "wisemind" in residents. May summed up the concept saying, "Wisemind is combining the emotional mind and the reasonable mind in the present moment for good decision-making." It involves an emphasis on staying in the moment, the place where healing happens. Many of the tools she advocates for are related to identifying strategies in advance -- for example, having a distraction plan when overwhelming emotion hits or having an idea on how to handle distressing situations.

Angie May did a webinar outlining the content for Heartbeat.  If you are interested in learning more about her approach, check out the recording of her webinar (remember to log in for your affiliate discount!) or connect with Angie at KairosKoaching.com.  To jumpstart a conversation on Emotional Intelligence, join the National Maternity Housing Coalition Facebook group.

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Celebrating Anne Pierson

imagejpeg 1Anne Pierson is a memorable soul – A pioneer. A founder. An author. A mentor. A mother & friend. Surrounded by housing peers, this noteworthy woman was awarded a Lifetime Legacy award on October 28 from the National Maternity Housing Coalition. “Anne has always been one of my role models since the moment I met her,” Peggy Hartshorn, Board President of Heartbeat International described, “I admire her both as an individual and as an example of ministry as a couple.”

Anne loves singing, puzzles, and striking up conversations wherever she goes. Her love takes the form of being able to focus deeply on the individual in front of her and speak to their heart. She gives “words” as a spiritual ministry to encourage and direct. She has lived a rich life of relationship, having touched many lives with her expertise and genuine love.

As an only child, Anne longed for the large extended families she saw in her childhood neighborhood. Her husband Jimmy had a deep yearning to be a father even as a youth. Both of these desires were realized in the unique extended family they created together. They wed when Anne was 18 years old and together, they had two daughters, Holly and Shelly. As youth ministers early in their marriage, Anne and Jimmy encountered a young woman who was pregnant due to rape. This encounter began a lifetime journey of service to women and children.

Anne and Jimmy welcomed over 200 pregnant women into the context of their personal home, opening their doors to women in need of support. The family life that was shared together is the source of many of Anne’s great stories and insights and Anne has stayed in touch with many of these families for years and years. Their personal efforts became formalized in the founding of a nonprofit, House of His Creation, in 1972. Following many years of direct service, the Pierson’s were publicly recognized in a speech made by President Reagan. This prompted other individuals and ministries needing help to reach out and eventually, led to the development of a new ministry.

Praying Over Anne

Anne began writing materials and in 1984, founded Loving & Caring, an international ministry to provide resources, materials, and practical tools for those in the pregnancy help movement. The My Baby and Me workbook series remains a valuable tool in the pro-life movement, especially in supporting the exploration of adoption. Anne played a key role in the establishment of the National Christian Housing Conference.

As a speaker, she has brought the pro-life message to a variety of settings including conferences, churches, and retreats. A natural storyteller, Anne brings a spark of humor and light-heartedness, illustrating her teachings with tales from her life. She is passionate about the impact of fatherlessness, the beauty of adoption, and the model of family.

“Anne’s years and years of service have shaped the maternity housing community in profound ways,” Mary Peterson, facilitator of the National Maternity Housing Coalition, noted. “She introduced and gave shape to a new model of ministry which inspired many to take up the work. Her work continues in the leaders she has formed who continue to serve with great conviction and passion.”

Over the course of their service, Jim and Anne received Heartbeat’s inaugural Servant Leader Award in 1996. Years later, they also received a 2011 Legacy Award, part of a very small community of those who have been honored with both. Following Jim’s passing in 2012, Heartbeat established a scholarship in his name to support a housing organization in attending the conference.

In recent months, Pierson has announced that the next season of her ministry will be closer to home. A resident of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Anne is involved with ministries and churches in that community. She has a rich family life including 3 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Speaking with conviction, Hartshorn summed up Anne’s legacy in this way, “Anne is an incredibly wise woman – versed in human nature, able to see what women really need, and willing to pour herself out with genuine love.”

As the Lifetime Legacy award noted, Anne Pierson has indeed “fought the good fight and finished the race.” (2 Timothy 4:7)

Designing a Home

by Mary Peterson, Housing Specialistjob success
Heartbeat International

I recently downloaded a game on my phone for interior design. You are given a shell of a room and have to choose the perfect sofa, rug, and accent tables to meet the design briefing. There is a weird satisfaction for me in finding the find combination of color and balance and scale for a room – even though my own home is FAR from an interior design masterpiece! But, the game came to mind as an analogy. There are design elements to consider when creating a maternity housing program, all of which require balance and attention.

Here’s my take on the “fresh” key program design elements to consider in your maternity home:

  • A lived Christian experience. What better way to make the Gospel relevant than to be immersed in an environment of genuine Christian love? So many of the principles of our Christian life are now the basis of “research-based practices” – meaning, compassion, whole-person thinking, balancing autonomy with community, and more. Christ’s message continues to be for the flourishing and healing of our human nature – and social science is discovering that! Our homes create a safe place for “church” to be experienced by women who may have dismissed Christianity.
  • Resiliency skills. When you research “resiliency skills”, there isn’t a set list but some general themes emerge. These include spirituality, managing strong emotions, movement/exercise, breaking down a big goal into smaller tasks, social support, playfulness, and more. The research shows it is these types of activities and proficiencies that help hurting people overcome. It would be an interesting exercise to think deeply about being hyper-intentional about building these skills into your program – either explicitly (via a class, activity or curriculum) or implicitly (via your culture, policies and dynamic).
  • Trauma-aware approaches. There is undoubtedly a trend toward understanding the impact that prolonged toxic stress, especially during formative years, has on the well-being of clients over time. New knowledge of brain science is impacting how we think about the policies and practices of our work. As maternity homes are exposed to the ideas related to trauma informed care, we are seeing a variety of shifts in language, approach, and policies of programs.
  • Faster Intakes. As maternity housing programs grow in their knowledge of trauma-informed care, programs are exploring a simplified intake process. Instead of an in-depth exploration of her life’s journey, programs have begun experimenting with asking a limited number of questions, primarily focused on issues of safety. Additionally, there is a shift toward “opt-in” thinking with programs asking “Will this woman benefit from our program?” rather than “Does she fit our criteria?”
  • Longer Services. Often healing work takes time, relationship, and stability. We know that intuitively and the research backs it up. We’ve seen the trend toward longer stays at maternity homes for many years and now, there seems to be a high amount of interest in post-residential programming for ongoing support once the mothers leave the maternity home. In addition, homes are feeling the vacuum of fewer transitional housing programs due to shifts in federal funding priorities and there is significant exploration by maternity housing programs to provide apartment-style units.

There is no “perfect living room” in the design app I’ve been playing—it’s a matter of one’s own personal style with the limitations of available resources plus some principles of design. Similarly, there is no “perfect model” of maternity home. But the elements mentioned above provide some principles of design worthy of consideration as you create a beautiful maternity housing program.

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Slip, Trip, and Fall - Five Safety Tips for Maternity Homes

by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistIntheWakeNY
Heartbeat International

Fall is here! With this great season, we think about football, pumpkin spice, and…..baby safety?!?! Yep, in addition to being the time of shifting weather and changing leaves, September is recognized as Baby Safety Month.

In the spirit of recognizing the role of having a safe environment, here are a few safety tips that impact a group living environment, especially with newborns:

  1. Use products according to directions and the child’s age, weight, and developmental needs. That’s the big one given by the promoters of Baby Safety Month, and it should be! At maternity homes, we are pretty good at “making do” – but when it comes to things related to the well-being of our little ones, I like the motto, “when in doubt, throw it out.”
  1. Be attentive to sleep safety! It’s a tough one to convince sleep-deprived mamas on and near impossible to regulate, I know! But having safe practices around sleep will give peace of mind – and hopefully, better sleep! – to everyone involved. Maybe we could share creative ways to talk about safe sleeping in our Facebook group.
  1. Hand-washing. When you read about promoting health, especially in group environments, handwashing is ALWAYS mentioned as the key starting place. Whether it’s singing silly songs, giving the stink eye, or side-by-side modeling the behavior, figure out a way to create a culture of clean hands. (Note: Stink eye, while a technique used by moms everywhere, should be used only in special circumstances.) If pretty-smelling soap promotes the disinfection of germs, it’s worth the investment!
  1. Being attentive. Watching the moms engage deeply with their child(ren) is one of the joys of maternity home life. Whether engaging playfully, meeting the baby’s needs, or watching for safety hazards, homes should be a source of encouragement for the mother’s active participation in the life of her child. The habit of managing distractions – especially with gadgets constantly at our fingertips – is a great life lesson!
  1. Slips, trips, and falls. These everyday hazards are a common threat to the kiddos – and adults! – of the house. Pregnant women may not easily see what underfoot and falling objects can be dangerous to infants on the ground or in cribs. Be aware of cords, ice, and other hazards. Teach the adults of the house (staff, volunteers, and residents) to turn on “risk assessment” eyes as they observe the environment!

Let’s raise a pumpkin spice latte to the safety of our homes! May they be places of well-being and protection!

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