This year, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is asking Catholic churches in the US to intensify their focus on the needs of women facing pregnancies in challenging circumstances. All U.S. bishops are encouraged to invite their parishes to join the nationwide effort from March 25, 2020 to March 25, 2021 entitled “Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service.”
Individual parishes are asked to complete an inventory of the resources currently available in their local area, assess the results and identify gaps, and plan and implement a parish response based on their findings.
During the inventory process, (May-September of 2020) parishes are being encouraged develop relationships with their local pregnancy help center. With well over 17,000 Catholic parishes in the United States, and over 2,700 pregnancy help centers, there is great opportunity for collaboration. The intent of this effort is not to turn parishes into pregnancy centers, but to have parishes better connect women in need to the local resources, and to encourage parish support of local pregnancy help efforts.
Once a bishop invites his parishes to join the Year of Service, parish teams would begin to survey local resources, especially pregnancy help centers. Pregnancy help centers are welcome to proactively contact the Catholic parishes in their area to share the wonderful help they are already providing to mothers in need.
To find out more about Walking with Moms in Need: A Year of Service, visit www.walkingwithmoms.com. To connect with the local Respect Life contact for the diocese in your region, click here.
by Christa Brown BSN, RN, Medical Specialist/APR Coordinator
Clients we serve are often in the midst of making relationship, pregnancy, sexual, career, health, and a variety of other major life choices. We are given the honor and privilege of assisting them in this process. We want the best outcomes for the women and men we are called to serve. But how do we successfully assist them navigate these life-altering decisions when sometimes there is no clear right or wrong? How do we allow them to choose without imposing our will on them? How do we help them succeed?
Often we see the situations they face in only black and white, good and bad. But the choices they are making might not always be answered that way. And the backgrounds of clients, the present circumstances and their future goals in life are all different. The better thought process might be, “what is the wise thing to do?”
Many clients have had some conditional love such as, “If you make the decision I want you to, I’ll care about you”, but very little unconditional love. Friends and family with other agendas can create doubt in the patient's choices. Even a very positive decision can feel completely wrong and clients might waiver either for a moment or for an extended length of time. As they struggle to get footing, it’s important we are not yet another voice causing them confusion. Pushing the decision we want might cause clients to agree in the moment, but it will likely not remain a long-term decision.
The big question becomes –
“In light of past experience, current circumstances, future hopes & dreams, what’s the wise thing to do?”
Looking at past experiences can bring clarity to current decisions. But it can be easy to be deceived into thinking that doing the same thing will achieve different results. We all believe we can manage outcomes. We tell ourselves, “I know last time didn’t go well, but this time is different.” Decisions made in the past have created the realities of today.
It’s also important to look at current circumstances to understand how they are affecting decisions. It’s not uncommon to want the easier way or immediate satisfaction. It’s just human nature to avoid thinking of the many outcomes that one decision might bring.
And thirdly, the vision for tomorrow can guide today’s decisions. It’s important for clients to see clearly their hopes and dreams and understand how today’s decisions affect them. It’s almost always a bad idea to trade something desired now for something wanted in the future. Friends and family might not have the same ambitions, so decisions might not be understood or supported. It’s a good exercise to brainstorm those hopes and dreams and even write them down, so they can remain in focus.
Here are some steps that can be used to help process decisions:
As these decisions are processed, clients might not be consistent. When the trajectory has been set for quite some time and suddenly a different plan is made, the line sometimes doesn’t stay straight. Clients sometimes take two steps forward and three steps back. But then a few more steps. It’s important that we show our pride in them for each accomplishment. We might be the only ones cheering them on. But it’s equally important to let them know they can always be honest about those steps backwards. We cannot help them if they never return. Even if they make decisions they know we might not agree with, clients need ongoing support offered without judgment and condemnation. That can be the most difficult part of working in a center - maybe one of the hardest things we will ever do. But it’s what God calls us to, and it’s what will make the difference – loving them unconditionally.
Assisting clients to navigate very complicated waters can be both challenging and rewarding. With education and support, most clients are well capable of making good, healthy decisions. We can be the voice of support and love that helps them make the best choices possible. One good move forward today can affect all of the future.
“Whoever is wise will observe these things, and they will understand the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Psalms 107:43 NKJV
Covey, S. R. (2004). The 7 habits of highly effective people: Restoring the character ethic ([Rev. ed.].). New York: Free Press.
Covey, S. (2014). The 7 habits of highly effective teens: The ultimate teenage success guide. New York, N.Y.: Simon & Schuster.
The LOVE Approach https://www.heartbeatservices.org/resources/resources-by-topic/volunteer-training/the-love-approach-3rd-edition-training-manual
Stanley, A. (2014). Ask It. The Question That Will Revolutionize How You Make Decisions. Danvers, MA: Multnomah Books.
by Stacey Womack, Executive Director of Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services
“He’s never hit me or been physical. It only happened once.”
Most people so narrowly define domestic violence and abuse that they decide what they are experiencing isn’t abuse at all. It doesn’t help that society tends to view it the same way.
It’s a challenging topic indeed. Abuse Recovery Ministry & Services (ARMS) has been working with victims and survivors of domestic violence for over twenty years, and we can tell you with resounding confidence that physical abuse, while dangerous, scary, and illegal, is not the form of abuse those we serve say is the worst. Emotional abuse has the most difficult and longest lasting effects, with verbal abuse a close second.
Domestic abuse isn’t about any one particular behavior. It is a pattern of behaviors used to gain and maintain power and control in an intimate relationship. It is never a one-time event, and it always includes multiple forms of abuse. In fact, you never experience physical abuse without experiencing other forms first. Forms of domestic abuse include: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, property, financial, spiritual, and animal. Many abusers never escalate to stereotypical types of physical abuse if they can control their partners through other ways.
Physical abuse isn’t just about physical harm. It can include posturing to intimidate or blocking a door. Verbal abuse isn’t just yelling, swearing, and name calling. It includes more subtle things like the silent treatment to punish, sarcasm, or being critical. Sexual abuse isn’t just about rape, although this happens often in intimate partner violence, but it also includes sexual putdowns and pouting to get their way. Emotional abuse leaves a person feeling confused. They begin to question their own sanity. They lose sight of who they are and their value in God. ARMS has several resources on our website www.armsonline.org including a list of types of abuse and an evaluation to determine the health of a relationship.
Domestic abuse is a learned behavior that is passed on from one generation to the next. Men exposed to physical abuse, sexual abuse, and/or domestic violence as children are almost four times more likely than other men to perpetrate domestic violence as adults.
Men and women have shared with us how they vowed they would never repeat the abusive behaviors they grew up with (the abuse or the acceptance of it), yet when conflicts arise, they find themselves reverting back to what they know. This is normal, but it is essential to equip those in abusive relationships to recognize the abuse, admit that it was wrong and hurtful, and seek help. This is how cycles of abuse end.
Parents are the number one influencers on a child’s life. Even if only one parent is willing to get help out of domestic abuse, it can become a catalyst for change for an entire family. Children cannot bring change to their home environments, but their parents can. Through the courage of their parents, the next generation can learn a healthier way to be in relationships move forward in life.
For practical tools to serve clients who are potential victims of domestic violence, check out Stacey Womack's new recorded webinar, What You Need to Know About Domestic Abuse, Click here to order.
Tiffany and her son, Jonathen, in 2016.
by Carrie Beliles, International Program Specialist
Last week, I received a Facebook message in the middle of the night. Most Facebook messages in the middle of the night are no big deal, but for me, this specific message was.
Why? Because God knew this message was exactly what I needed to hear at that specific moment.
I needed to wake up, to be shaken out of where I was mentally and reminded of a principle God taught me four years ago.
It is not about me. It is all about Him.
Let’s go back to four years ago, when I found myself the newly appointed executive director of a pregnancy help center in Germany. While I didn’t speak German, the center actually served a unique, English-speaking clientele. Our abortion-vulnerable clients consisted entirely of women connected to the largest U.S. military base outside of the United States.
And, I took on this role by accident. No kidding, by “accident.” Totally under-qualified, I had never worked in the pro-life world. I’d never been trained or even so much as volunteered at a pregnancy center.
I did however, have a background in the fight against human trafficking, where I worked directly with victims, so I understood there are hurting people all over the world who needed to be shown compassion. My only real qualification was God had been teaching me to love others and meet them where they were.
More importantly, I was also hurting. Having just walked through a recent trial in my own life, my marriage had weathered several years as a military wife, complete with constant separations that are part of the job description. Add to that, I was pregnant with my fourth of now five children.
Because of these—what I considered—disqualifying factors, I assumed I wasn’t ready to minister to others. After all, shouldn’t I fix myself first, then move on to help others? That’s how I was thinking, but of course, I was wrong.
Learning to Handle the “Tough Questions”
As the newly installed executive director, my board sent me to the 2012 Heartbeat International Annual Conference in Los Angeles, hopeful that a one-week training would help start me on the right foot.
In a city famous for its movie stars, dreams and miracles, I was slightly overwhelmed with the actual size of the conference. Heartbeat, I learned, is an international organization uniting over 2,000 affiliates working toward a common life-saving goal. Just walking the halls and meeting others who were doing this amazing work all over the world was an inspiration.
Though I was encouraged, I felt out of my league. Every one else at the conference seemed to be a much better director, board member or volunteer than I could hope to be. All week long, I kept thinking they all must know what they are doing. It was a humbling experience, to say the least.
The last day of conference, I attended a session titled “Answering Tough Calls” with Bri Laycock, the director of Heartbeat’s 24-7 pregnancy helpline, Option Line. Having served with Option Line since shortly after its formation in 2003, Bri was confident and it seemed she was able to answer everything thrown her way. She was professional, ready and prepared—everything I felt I wasn’t.
At the end of the workshop, there was a Q-and-A session. An attendee raised her hand and posed a situation she recently faced. I sat back and listened, thinking, “I have no clue what I would do in that situation.”
The client, it turned out, was pregnant in the midst of a marriage that was falling apart due to infidelity. Multiple families were involved, and the baby this woman was carrying would be of a different race from the client’s husband and her other children. There was no hiding the breech of trust.
I was overwhelmed just picturing the scenario. The consensus approach from the class, and from Bri, was, “Keep her on the phone, keep the connection open, and take it one day at a time.” I remember thinking how glad I was to not be dealing with that situation.
Two weeks later. Tiffany called the hotline.
I had just closed up the center, picked up my daughter from kindergarten and was on the autobahn heading home after a long day when the phone rang.
One Day at a Time
Tiffany’s first question was whether we perform abortions and, if so, when could she make the earliest appointment. As I listened, mother-to-mother to someone desperate with fear, I offered to meet up and talk. When someone, like Tiffany, needs to talk, they just need someone to listen. I could do that.
A mother of three young boys, a married family friend had taken advantage of Tiffany while her husband was deployed in the Middle East. Now, she was pregnant. My heart sank as I realized I knew the wife whose husband was the father of Tiffany’s baby.
My thoughts went back to that session at the Heartbeat International Annual Conference. I’d only been back a couple of weeks, so the conversation—and that fleeting sense of relief that, at least I wasn’t dealing with this situation—was still fresh in my mind.
I asked myself, “What would Bri do in this situation? How would she handle this ‘Tough Question?” How on earth could I help to “fix” this?
That’s when Bri’s answer at the workshop crystalized in my mind: Keep her on the phone. Keep the connection open. Take it one day at a time.
As I got to know Tiffany and listened to her story, God began to teach me to take one step at a time, one day at a time. I wasn’t going to “fix” Tiffany’s situation. There was no formula. There were very few words of wisdom I could offer.
I only had the love of Christ, which I have seen and experienced in my own life, and which I could draw upon to share with someone who was hurting, alone and scared. Extending love was all Tiffany needed at that moment. Looking back, I’m sure that, had I tried to impart counseling methods or a fixed scenario, I may have missed an opportunity to actually love her.
The Miracle of Love
This life of love starts right where we are. I didn’t have years of training or relevant experience; it was a core principle that came to light in the “Tough Questions” workshop that set me on course. Stay on the line. Keep the connection open. Take it a day at a time.
Often, we count ourselves out even before we give ourselves the chance to see how God works through us. Whether it’s our perceived gap in our qualifications, preparation or “life-togetherness,” we need to remember that it’s God who works through us, and He’s the one who qualifies the unqualified.
Hitting my Facebook message folder four years after we first met, Tiffany’s note jarred me out of the same thought pattern to which I—and I’m guessing, you—tend to default.
Tiffany is now a homeschooling mother of five young boys. She’s going back to school to pursue a degree in crisis counseling. She reached out to let me know that, because of the way God worked through our relationship, she wants to do the same for others.
What a powerful reminder of the God who supplies our every need “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” I know He has supplied mine. What a blessing to know He’s done the same for Tiffany.
You can read Tiffany’s story here.
Healthy Pregnancy/Healthy Baby Series: Part 1
By Helen Risse RN MSN
If you work with pregnant women, you have a great opportunity to improve birth outcomes. When a new client visits your pregnancy help organization, this may be the only contact you have with her.
What should she be sure to know before she leaves you? Does she know her due date? Will you be telling her based on the first day of her last menstrual period?
It is important to define due date and term pregnancy. Remind your new mother that her due date is really a due time that looks at two weeks before to two weeks after that date as being "term". Many people still think of pregnancy in terms of nine months. Explain that pregnancy is defined as 40 weeks or 10 lunar months.
At the end of 2013, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) redefined the meaning of "term".
Research has noted that the brain of a baby at 35 weeks, 0 days grows in size by two-thirds in the following four weeks.
Research has noted that although the weight of a baby may look normal, babies born before 39 weeks are sleepier babies. These babies do not latch and suckle as well as babies born at 39 weeks 0 days. They have more problems with higher bilirubin levels. These concerns can lead to serious consequences. The choice of an elective delivery date must factor in these findings.
Women should also be taught the signs of preterm labor. Teach women about contractions. Explain what they may feel and describe those symptoms that should put them on alert.
Describe contractions as feeling like:
Describe vaginal discharge or bleeding:
Describe water breaks:
General feeling that something is not right.
What should she do if she thinks she may be having preterm labor? Below are some guidelines you may discuss with your Medical Director to develop a policy/procedure for your center.
If the contractions are coming more than every 15 minutes or 4-6 in an hour, call your doctor.
It is important to stay well hydrated. Dehydration can often cause a woman to experience contractions.Women should know the risks that increase concerns for preterm labor. Women who are at greatest risk for preterm labor are those who have had a previous preterm birth, as well as those who are pregnant with multiples, and those with certain abnormalities of their uterus or cervix.
Other risk factors include smoking, drinking alcohol, using illegal drugs, domestic violence, including physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or lack of support.
Additional risks factors related to her health include infections, including urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted infections, diabetes, high blood pressure, second trimester bleeding from the vagina, being underweight before pregnancy, obesity, and a short time period between pregnancies.
When asked if there is anything that can be done to prevent preterm labor, tell a woman to:
If you have one visit from a pregnant woman and pass on this information, you may contribute to an improved outcome. Every extra day her baby is in a healthy intrauterine environment is positive for the development of her baby, which in turn can be a big help to a new mother.
Spong CY. Defining "Term" Pregnancy: Recommendations From the Defining "Term" Pregnancy Workgroup. JAMA. 2013;309(23):2445-2446. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.62
ACOG Clinical Guidelines: Definition of term pregnancy. Committee Opinion No. 579. American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Obstet Gynecol 2013;122:1139–40.35Go the Full 40 Campaign tool Kit :http://www.health4mom.org/pregnancy/healthy_pregnancyo
The last weeks of pregnancy count: July 5th, 2012l Kit: http://newsmomsneed.marchofdimes.com/?tag=brain-development
Catastrophe hit Joplin, Missouri, on Sunday, May 25th, as severe tornadoes devastated significant portions of the Joplin community. The pictures of devastation are heart wrenching with 30% of the city gone and another 40% damaged. The reports of loss of life and damage have been difficult to comprehend.
The story is still unfolding for Joplin and its residents. But the story of the local pregnancy help center is remarkable.
For several years, our affiliate in Joplin, Life Choices, has operated one of the best models in the country involving STD testing and treatment. Years ago, they saw the vision for impacting this college town by expanding their medical services to include STD services. Pregnancy help centers from all over the country have sought to understand how Joplin successfully draws students in for STD testing and treatment and shares God’s plan for their sexuality – a message that of course is counter to the prevailing culture. Life Choices, as The Body of Christ at work, has been influencing the culture with some success. They truly have been a haven for those devastated by the culture of abortion and lack of sexual integrity.
Scrambling to connect with Life Choices folks, we now understand that ten volunteers and staff have lost everything but their lives. Many of the churches that supported the ministry are now rubble and many of their individual donors lost everything. The leaders of the ministry told us that as many staff as possible came to the center Monday morning (the ministry/center was untouched) and began finding as many material resources as possible to start handing out to people in the community. They quickly became a hub for material services.
With the local hospital destroyed by the tornado, Life Choices opened its doors to the medical community to set up essential medical care in the ministry offices. Currently there are several doctors providing a variety of services to the community because Life Choices quickly recognized that they were well positioned to serve the community in the aftermath of the devastation. Once a haven from the storms of life, they have stretched themselves to serve as a safe harbor for assistance of all types as they bring life back to their community.
While the center staff at Life Choices is currently overwhelmed and suffering, they have recognized that this is their finest hour to influence the community and the culture. They have stayed strong in believing, practicing, and teaching God’s plan for salvation and sexuality in a culture that does not want to hear it but is now looking to them as a beacon of hope.
by Laura Strietmann, Associate Director, Pregnancy Center East, Cincinnati, Ohio
When I began serving clients in crisis at Pregnancy Center East in Cincinnati, Ohio over 7 years ago, I noticed that besides time, love, and an ultrasound, there was another powerful tool in assisting a woman in the choice of life for her unborn baby.
This was an outdated grainy VHS tape, entitled Abortion Techniques. Non-graphic in content, but real and compassionate, each
time this tape was viewed by a client considering abortion, she left with a different mindset. The client usually moved from being abortion-vulnerable to choosing life for her baby.
Carol Everett, a former abortion
clinic owner and operator, turned pro-life warrior, had filmed Abortion Techniques in 1993. It was a 25-minute video showing abortion through illustrations, actual tools, and Carol’s personal testimony. Many centers throughout the country use this video in teaching pregnant women the realities of abortion. Today, abortion has been made to seem as if it is equivalent to having a mole removed, as a “necessary” aspect of healthcare. Abortion Techniques showed how far these perceptions are from reality. One day several years ago, while working at PCE, our copy of the video broke. After searching for an updated replacement for this worn tape, I discovered that the industry lacked a current video with the most recent abortion methods sensitively presented in such an effective manner.
I decided to contact Carol Everett, now very busy as an internationally known pro-life author, speaker, and lobbyist for the state of Texas. Had she thought of making a more updated version of the video? Did she realize the number of babies’ lives saved by this tape? Would she see it was time to make a new film? Several months of persistent emails, Facebook inbox messages, and finally a phone conversation before Carol conditionally agreed to the project.
Having never met
in person, only through internet and phone lines, Carol promised that if I could secure funding for the project, she would journey to PCE and make a new video. She would generously assign PCE the rights to the video as a means for fundraising. Through the generosity of the Ruth J. and Robert A. Conway Foundation, PCE was able to secure the funds to film the new version. This was not the answer I thought I would receive in my initial inquiries, but it was an incredible opportunity to affect the lives of the babies at PCE and now throughout the country.
Carol traveled to Cincinnati and Greg Schlueter, a Catholic moviemaker, and staff member for the Diocese of Toledo, OH filmed the video. On the afternoon of February 15, 2013 just as filming was wrapping up at PCE our doorbell rang. With a CLOSED sign on the door, two women still rang our bell desperate for help. As I opened the door and they noticed all of the filming equipment, the client begged for assistance. Stepping inside the Center, the client shared she was already well into her second trimester, but had finally just told her sister, who then found the Center and brought her for help. The situation was sensitive and the expecting mom was also post abortive.
As the young pregnant client and her sister described the crisis, Carol rounded the corner and heard the story. Right there in the lobby of PCE Carol listened to this young client and through a beautiful conversation offered so much understanding and hope. Carol counseled the client with sincerity and love. This client stayed in PCE’s care throughout her pregnancy and a perfect baby was delivered this summer. Mom is overjoyed with how everything has worked out. This was the first miracle of life from the updated video being brought to reality.
An Informed Look at Abortion Techniques is the new 14-minute modern life-saving tool. Using modern colors and graphics Mertz Design Studios completed this version to also include information on Plan B as well as RU-486 abortions. The initial launch of the video took place in April 2013 at the Heartbeat International Conference, selling over 100 copies to centers as far away as Alaska, Africa, Austria, and Germany.
After viewing the video in Dallas at the Conference, Janet Morana, Executive Director of Priests for Life, shared, “Every pregnancy center should be showing this movie to clients.” Reviews from center directors throughout the country are calling it “powerful,” the “best tool next to an ultrasound in reaching hearts and minds in the decision for life.”
On the day I write this article one absolutely abortion determined mom sat in PCE with a volunteer and viewed An Informed Look. The decision for life was made then and there while watching the video, even before the ultrasound. The client was astounded by the reality of abortion procedures. What happens to her body as well as the unborn baby’s was shocking to say the least. Even in a non-graphic manner, seeing how an abortion is performed is devastating enough. When making the biggest decision of her life a woman deserves to have complete information. Carol’s testimony is riveting.
Hearing the sorrow of a post-abortive women provides another enormous window to the reality of abortion. Viewing this film allows a woman, in the words of Carol “To make her decision fully informed.”
We hope to get this tool in the hands
of thousands, including pregnancy resource centers, high school educators, and politicians. We will be distributing the video at future Catholic and pro-life conferences. Please visit us in Washington, D.C. during The March for Life convention. The video will continue to be sold through www.HeritageHouse.com, as well as directly through the Center, at 513-321-3100.
by Susan Dammann RN, Medical Specialist
With a presence in the U.S. and globally, Vitamin Angels assists at-risk pregnant women, new mothers, and children under 5 years old gain access to life-saving and life-changing multivitamins.
Vitamin Angels’ domestic program is coordinated through a network of grassroots organizations, including pregnancy resource centers and national organizations with a network of local operations, such as Feeding America, the National Association of Free Clinics, WIC, and local food banks.
In the U.S., Vitamin Angels is working to reach 70,000 children under the age of five, new mothers, and pregnant women with daily multivitamins in 2013.
Hundreds of thousands of children—right here in America—are undernourished. An undernourished child’s ability to reach his or her full potential is hindered by inconsistent access to healthy and nutritious foods. This food insecurity can result in deficiencies of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) that are necessary for proper physical and mental development. Without these micronutrients, their lives—and futures—are at risk. These deficiencies can start in the womb, which is why reaching a mother during her pregnancy with these vitamins can be so pivotal.
To learn more about Vitamin Angels click here.
You may review eligibility requirements and apply for a grant at http://www.vitaminangels.org/become-field-partner .
Good question! And one that needs exploring before a center begins offering prenatal vitamins to clients. There are several aspects to consider in finding the answer…
by Susan Dammann RN LAS, Medical Specialist
Recently, while volunteering at a local pregnancy center, I had to report two cases to the county children’s services. Both were cases of statutory rape, including one involving possible domestic abuse.
While it was certainly unusual to have two cases to report in a single morning, we are seeing more and more cases the state mandates our center to report.
Are you a mandatory reporter? Read the two statements from Mandatory Reporters of Child Abuse and Neglect to find out.
Each State has laws requiring certain people to report concerns of child abuse and neglect. While some States require all people to report their concerns, many States identify specific professionals as mandated reporters; these often include social workers, medical and mental health professionals, teachers, and child care providers. Specific procedures are usually established for mandated reporters to make referrals to child protective services.
Approximately 48 States, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands designate professions whose members are mandated by law to report child maltreatment. Individuals designated as mandatory reporters typically have frequent contact with children. Such individuals may include:
• Social workers• Teachers, principals, and other school personnel• Physicians, nurses, and other health-care workers• Counselors, therapists, and other mental health professionals• Child care providers• Medical examiners or coroners• Law enforcement officers
For up-to-date information on your state’s mandatory reporting requirements, click here. Visit www.ChildWelfare.gov for definitions of child abuse and domestic violence in your state, as well valuable information including listings of mandated reporters and more.
Since your center is equally committed to protecting maternal health and promoting child well-being, you will want to ensure all volunteer and staff members have all the information they need in order to identify and report potential cases of abuse. Mandatory reporter training is typically offered wherever such regulations are enforced, and includes education on who is a mandatory reporter, what information they are required to report, how/to whom the information is required to be reported, as well as issues related to anonymity and immunity.
Simply search “Mandated Reporter Training” along with your state, using a search engine such as Google, to access your state-specific training material.
Material in-hand, consider training your staff using this information, or schedule a special session with an expert in your area. Your center’s investment in this invaluable training could very well make a life-and-death difference in a woman’s life.
While your primary motivation will center around the positive difference your preparedness to identify and report child abuse and neglect can make in a woman’s life, failure to report these incidents—or worse, false reporting of these incidents—constitutes a crime with accompanying penalties in approximately 47 U.S. states and many territories.
See Penalties for Failure to Report and False Reporting of Child Abuse and Neglect for more information.
Also included in the discussion of mandatory reporting is the concept of privileged communications, which is designed to protect confidential communications between professionals and their clients, with the ultimate goal of providing protection to mistreated minors.
The relevant section on www.ChildWelfare.gov includes the following explanation:
Mandatory reporting statutes also may specify when a communication is privileged. "Privileged communications" is the statutory recognition of the right to maintain confidential communications between professionals and their clients, patients, or congregants. To enable States to provide protection to maltreated children, the reporting laws in most States and territories restrict this privilege for mandated reporters. All but three States and Puerto Rico currently address the issue of privileged communications within their reporting laws, either affirming the privilege or denying it (i.e., not allowing privilege to be grounds for failing to report). For instance:
• The physician-patient and husband-wife privileges are the most common to be denied by States.• The attorney-client privilege is most commonly affirmed.• The clergy-penitent privilege is also widely affirmed, although that privilege usually is limited to confessional communications and, in some States, denied altogether.
One of the most common types of abuse we deal with in pregnancy help organizations of all kinds is statutory rape. A report entitled, "Statutory Rape Laws By State" introduces the topic as follows:
Most states do not refer specifically to statutory rape; instead they use designations such as sexual assault and sexual abuse to identify prohibited activity. Regardless of the designation, these crimes are based on the premise that until a person reaches a certain age, he is legally incapable of consenting to sexual intercourse. Thus, instead of including force as a criminal element, theses crimes make it illegal for anyone to engage in sexual intercourse with anyone below a certain age, other than his spouse. The age of consent varies by state, with most states, including Connecticut, setting it at age 16. The age of consent in other states ranges from ages 14 to 18.
Some states base the penalty for violations on the age of the offender, with older offenders receiving harsher penalties. For example, California, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, and New York reserve their harshest statutory rape penalty for offenders who are age 21 or older.
Click here to see the most up-to-date information on state-specific statutory rape laws and mandatory reporting requirements.
For the safety and welfare of your clients, and to be sure you are complying with your state statutes on mandated reporting, Heartbeat International recommends you search out the particular mandates for your state, develop policies and procedures on mandated reporting and schedule an in-service on this topic to insure all staff and volunteers fully understand the issue and comply with the mandates.
Linked here is Pregnancy Decision Health Centers’ policy, which you can use as a template for your center.
Please note: PDHC is in the state of Ohio, and these guidelines may differ in other states. This policy is to be used as a sample only. Please be sure to abide by your state's specific guidelines on all mandatory reporting policies.
Pat Upchurch is President of H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People), based in St. Louis, Missouri.
by Pat Upchurch, H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People)
Do you feel called to serve urban communities? To urban minority people groups? Are you planting a pregnancy center in an urban area? Already serving there? I exhort you with this, from Isaiah 58:12 – “Those from among you shall build the old waste places; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called the Repairer of the Breach, The Restorer of Streets to Dwell In.”
Statistically, African American and Hispanic females have 59 percent of all abortions (while making up only 25 percent of the population). In addition, over 60 percent of Planned Parenthood facilities are in cities with a higher black population than the rest of the state. Planned Parenthood also targets low-income and women of color.
With these facts, it is without a doubt we need to be in these regions, to reach and help those who are targeted. Many are abortion vulnerable/minded, lack sufficient resources, have unhealthy relational structures, and need a relationship with Christ. Jesus himself left a pattern for us in ministry. He could have done anything and every thing to get the “Word” (Himself) to us, but instead He chose to come where we were….”And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” (John 1:14).
It is imperative that we are equipped to serve and minister to people in these urban areas. We must start by understanding the environment and culture of these communities. Stress, for example, while not unique to urban life, is certainly magnified by it. Urban city-dwellers must wrestle with special stressors of stimulus overload, constant change, crowding, noise, pollution, unpredictable transportation, cultural differences, homelessness, drug infestation, crime, gangs, etc. Every day requires constant processing and adjustment.
Equally crucial is understanding urbanites’ mindset and view on relationships, authority, possessions, God, etc. For example, those in poverty see the present as most important. They make decisions in light of the moment, often based on their feelings or need for survival. Their worldview is often limited by their immediate neighborhood. It has been said people living in heavily urban areas fundamentally live their everyday lives within a six square-block radius.
As Christians who desire to bring about positive change in urban areas, our approach must reflect not only our client and cultural training, but our overarching awareness of the unconditional love of God for people created in His image. This sensitivity focuses on strengths, those of both the community and its residents.We have the wonderful privilege to serve, help, and win so many to Christ! Urban communities are ripe mission fields, and opportunities for us to grow in our faith and discipleship.
The better we understand, the better we serve.
H.E.L.P. (Helping, Educating/Exhorting & Loving People) serves pregnancy centers, organizations and churches involved in urban ministry.
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