by Sharisa McDaniel, Transitional Living Program Manager at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma
The setting of a Maternity Home and Transitional Living offers a unique opportunity to influence the parenting practices of residents and family dynamics for generations to come. At Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge in Tulsa, Oklahoma, team members observe parenting practices that range from healthy and loving to harsh and disconnected. In an effort to positively shape the futures of the families in the programs, the Transitional Living team at Catholic Charities of Eastern Oklahoma regularly examines the environmental influences and program initiatives to promote bonding and connectedness. As the family programming at Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge has developed and evolved, the following adjustments have been made to the environment:
Catholic Charities has also established a Family Enrichment position to pro-actively educate parents on child development and to offer experiences that help to build healthy bonds. With a background of teaching early childhood education for nearly 20 years, Angela Grissom brings her experience and her passion for educating parents to the Family Enrichment role. Residents of Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge meet with Angela every week to participate in parent-child activities and learn positive parenting practices. The Family Enrichment program offers:
With these efforts, mothers report:
The Family Enrichment program at Madonna House and St. Elizabeth Lodge is a pro-active approach to influencing strong bonds within resident families for years to come.
by Peggy Forrest
Most of us would agree that any organization’s ability to successfully carry out its mission is tied to the quality of its leadership. Be that a President, CEO, or Executive Director - the effectiveness of that person’s leadership, makes a difference. So, it’s easy to understand why it is mission critical to ensure the next leader will be the correct one, and the transition from one leader to the next will be as smooth as possible. This is especially true in maternity housing because of the deeply personal nature of the work. Leadership transition is critically important, and having a plan guiding that effort will help reduce the stresses which accompany such a transition. Succession planning takes focus and effort. It involves the Board of Directors working in partnership with the current leader.
A succession plan has three main goals:
A succession plan contemplates:
A succession plan should include:
Regardless of the age of your Agency, or the tenure of your leader, succession planning may be a timely and important topic to address during your Agency’s next strategic planning efforts.
Listen in to a podcast from Mary Peterson and Emily Prins on the same topic of succession planning!
Heartbeat International has additional information related to succession planning in our Governing Essentials Manual. Click here to find out more.
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.
by Ellen Foell, International Program Specialist, Heartbeat International and Faith Bohlin, Program Manager, Aid for Women
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.
Listen very deeply and ask good questions.
Be aware of and celebrate differences.
Ruby Payne. A Framework for Understanding Poverty and/or Bridges out of Poverty
Duane Elmer. Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility
by Mary Peterson, LAS, Housing SpecialistHeartbeat 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.
by Mary Peterson, Housing SpecialistHeartbeat 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:
Let’s raise a pumpkin spice latte to the safety of our homes! May they be places of well-being and protection!
by Hannah Ellis, International Program Specialist
In a recent piece on Pregnancy Help News, Heartbeat shared that Life Choices, a pregnancy help organization in Kittanning, Pennsylvania, is on the verge of opening their first maternity home, “The Inn.”
After hearing the story of the home’s beginnings from Christy Pittman, Project Coordinator, and Bri Sherman, Development Assistant, I noticed a prominent theme that may be helpful to share with others in the pregnancy help movement as you strategize for the future.
In the beginning, Life Choices had a plan for the new maternity home.
Initially, they wanted a large structure that had a lot of rooms (eight, if you want to get specific). Yet, in their searching and looking at properties, God kept bringing them back to the idea of focusing on the relationships with the clients more than the structure of the program. When they began praying through properties, that’s when the funds started coming in and God showed them the house He had for them – a smaller, more intimate house with potential for growth.
Throughout the decision-making process, Christy and Bri realized they also needed to let go of their control over the details of the houseparent situation, and just a week after they did, a couple surfaced who wanted to fill the role.
The team officially closed on the maternity house this summer, and they have begun buying supplies and setting up policies and programming—which, it goes without saying, will be easier to implement in the smaller house. The staff is overjoyed about The Inn, and the official housewarming party will be on September 22, 2017. They are inviting supporters and community members, and are fully anticipating a waiting list.
Life Choice’s motto is “every life valued.” At the new maternity home—named after the inn that was too full for our Lord’s birth—the motto is “two lives at a time.” The Inn offers a safe haven for these women, where there hasn’t been room for them anywhere else. These young women now have a place of refuge where they are free to choose a parenting direction that is best for them.
Proverbs 16 tells us, “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Christy and Bri look back now and laugh about their wanting to be in control and said they’ve “learned to let go and let God move.” He has shown that His faithfulness and provision is beyond their own understanding.
Don’t we do that all too often?
We do more planning than praying and more scheming than surrendering, only to find out God’s design is far better than we could think up or imagine. It’s almost like giving an architect a blueprint for how to build our house. Except, add in the fact that the Architect doesn’t follow human rules or reasoning, and sees the whole picture where we see only a part.
When our Crayola-drawn blueprint gets superimposed with His intricate plan, we are humbled to a place of total trust in His more than capable hands.
What about you? Are you holding on to your design with a tight grip? Or, are you letting God hold the pen as He drafts His intricately beautiful plan? Let’s put the crayons down and instead clasp those hands in prayer, asking God what He wants to do. Trust me; He will blow your mind with what He’ll use you to accomplish.
Ephesians 3:20 – “Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
by Mary Peterson, Heartbeat International Housing Specialist
Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, many of the women served by the pregnancy help movement are dreaming of home. A place that is safe. Walls that protect and people who love.
There has been a lot of wild analysis of The Wizard of Oz over the years, trying to unlock the secret meaning of the story. Without venturing too far into that realm, let’s look at the central themes.
Like the Lion, many of the women seeking housing are deeply afraid. That fear might surface as despair, anger, or some other big emotion but, each is looking to the future and afraid of what they see. Being welcomed into a maternity home eliminates some immediate issues and provides the opportunity to find courage for a new path.
Like the Scarecrow, the women might not know what to do, how to start, or where to go. “I don’t know how to be a mom.” “How can I support a child?” The resources provided by a maternity housing program give her practical skills around employment, life skills, and education. And even more important, they build up her wisdom of her gifts and her identity in Christ.
Like the Tin Man, there is a temptation to revert back, to allow things to “rust” and get stuck in old patterns. Maternity homes wrestle with how to invite change in the deepest part of a woman, in her heart. Loving and being loved is transformational. Having stable, caring figures in one’s life allows the possibility of leaving a life of pain to have the fullness of life. Someone can point to the future and say, “I see more for you. I see a vibrant life. I see your heart fully alive.”
For a long time, Heartbeat’s vision for pregnancy help has included the work of housing programs. In recent years, through a partnership with the National Maternity Housing Coalition, a sense of common work has developed amongst maternity housing providers. As homes began talking to one another, we have looked back to the history of maternity housing in order to know where we have been. We have looked at our current realities to understand our similarities and differences. And we’ve begun to look forward to understand how to strengthen existing homes and support the development of new homes.
Our own Yellow Brick Road, if you will.
One strategy is to be a resource for fostering knowledge and skills–and great tools have been developed. One such tool is Maternity Housing Essentials. It’s a guidebook, drawing from the experience of various models and perspectives, to document the key issues related to housing. Laying out the strengths and challenges of various perspectives, the manual invites housing programs to think deeply about their structure and make informed decisions.
A deeper goal is to rally the hearts of those called to or involved in housing. Whenever homes gather, there is a fast sense of “someone who understands.” It’s a work that can be life-giving and draining, all at the same time. By facilitating community and connection, both virtually and in person, Heartbeat is trying to bolster those who give deeply to this important work.
Among homes, there is a great deal of variety in methods. However, there is a strong sense of unity in mission. And that sense of mission reconnects housing to the pregnancy help movement as a whole. Maternity homes exist to support vulnerable women and accompany them through pregnancy related decisions and beyond. In this way, we share a great deal in common with pregnancy centers, pregnancy medical clinics, and adoption agencies.
So, if you find yourself thinking, there is no place like home as you dream about the future, we are ready to help. Just click your ruby slippers together or click here for more information.
by Mary Peterson, LAS, Heartbeat Housing Specialist
It took me awhile to get it.
Geries Shaheen, a Therapist and Adjunct Professor in Psychology, was delivering a workshop entitled "The 3 Indispensable Elements of Holistic Services." It was the last session at the 2017 Heartbeat Conference and my head was already full of faces and new ideas. But eventually, his core message started to click: Doing life together in a maternity home IS the heart of program.
Using principles of pyschology, Shaheen invited participants to think of their work in the maternity home as "naturally conditioning individuals to become active participants in their own reality." In that way, the work of maternity housing staff is less about creating the perfectly managed structure and more about granting the mother opportunities for healthy experiences and helping her make sense of those experiences when needed.
"Organizations tend to ask questions like, 'How many house outings should we plan per month?' but it would be much more natural to approach outings in a more human way. For example, 'How many outings do I go on per month myself? What does my family do?'" Rather than focusing on executing an overly rigid structure, Shaheen encouraged the natural spontaneity of life to have a central place in the life of maternity homes.
"The spontaneous moments of praise that are part of daily life," he taught, "give the brain little boosts of dopamine.” Giving clients these doses of encouragement for small tasks...for example, giving praise when putting on the seat belt...is actually allowing the brain to experience pleasure which in turn, trains the brain to create new neurological pathways. He continued, "We are beings that FEEL first. THEN, we make meaning." Thus, in our interactions with residents, we should allow and invite feelings -- praise, safety, forgiveness, beginning again.
Pointing to various types of therapy, Shaheen acknowledged the role of the clinician. He encouraged homes to actively engage with counselors and therapists. Homes can request "summaries of treatment" and "overview of the goals for the client." Or even “results to a psychological evaluation” which would include mental health goals. But, having been a house-father in a maternity home, he repeatedly returned to the power of relationship.
There is something in his message that I continue to mull on. In my own thinking about the big picture of maternity housing, I've been grappling with the difference and the lack of difference between homes with clinical staff such as counselors, social workers, and therapists, and those without. What is lost? What is gained? In Shaheen's insights, there is a kernel that bridges the therapeutic environment with the loving home. That is simply, the centrality of relationship in experiencing healing and change.
Interested in hearing this workshop or others from the 2017 Heartbeat International Annual Conference? Click here to order.
Geries Shaheen is a Provisionally Licensed Professional Counselor operating in and around St. Louis Missouri. He is the behavioral ministries department head at Saint Louis Christian College and teaches psychology classes. He invested 3 years in the lives of pregnant and parenting teens as a house parent through The Sparrow's Nest Maternity Home. Geries provides Adolescent/ Family Therapy through Preferred Family Healthcare, holding his BA in Intercultural Studies from Lincoln Christian University, and his MA in Professional Counseling from Lindenwood University.
by Mary Peterson, LAS, Heartbeat Housing Specialist featuring Susan Barrett and Peggy Forrest
Years ago, I was introduced to the word magnanimous. It’s a mouthful and hard to spell! But, it is used to describe great-hearted individuals–people of courage, insight, conviction, action.
It came to mind when I thought about two leaders in the pregnancy help community, both with vibrant maternity housing programs, who have recently filed lawsuits against governmental bodies.
Susan Barrett, Executive Director of Aid for Women in Chicago, IL, currently has an injunction against the implementation of SB 1564, requiring all medical providers in the state to refer for abortions and counsel clients as to the "benefits" of abortion. “The law would not allow us to continue our mission,” she stated directly. “There was no escaping. If we were going to be forced to comply, why not fight it?”
Peggy Forrest was in a similar position. As Executive Director of Our Lady’s Inn, she recently filed a lawsuit against the so-called “Abortion Sanctuary City” code (St. Louis Ordinance 70459). The ordinance prohibits any organization, church or business from hiring or firing employees on the bases of what the code refers to as, “reproductive health decisions or pregnancy status.” Forrest passionately noted, “With such infringement upon our rights as citizens of the United States and of the state of Missouri, it left us absolutely no choice but to stand up and fight, or pack up and move out of the city of St. Louis. And moving is not a viable option.”
I asked these leaders to talk about overcoming the fear related to filing a lawsuit. Forrest noted that her staff is fully supportive of the action, “we have each other’s backs and know that the Lord is on our side, so we are not afraid.” Barrett echoed the sentiment, “We are not fearful. We put a lot of thought into it and our faith compels us to be strong.”
However, both noted the importance of a network of peers in maintaining strength in the fight. “I surround myself with a group of people who share the same values and are also very strong leaders,” Barrett noted. “It is much easier when people are doing it together.” Forrest suggested something similar, “If your mission is in jeopardy, find someone to stand with you. There is strength and power in numbers.”
Various laws and codes that further push an abortion agenda have been popping up in various parts of the country. The pro-life movement and maternity housing community are grateful for these two leaders, and others like them, who have chosen magnanimous leadership. May their witness of great-heartedness encourage all of us to do the same when needed!
For more info about these two programs or their strong leaders, please visit their websites:
Aid for WomenOur Lady’s Inn
Web Design and Development by Extend Web Services