In the wake of the Texas Heartbeat Act‘s passage, as other states are poised to introduce similar legislation, the general public has more reason than ever to learn about maternity homes — what they are, who they help, for how long, and how to find a local maternity home.
What is a maternity home?
Maternity homes physically house pregnant women in need of housing or who are at risk of abuse in their previous residence for being pregnant. Unlike emergency shelters, which provide brief respite for a few days or perhaps several weeks, maternity home residents are expected to stay for months at a time. Most maternity homes are small-scale operations; some house just a few women at a time while larger ones may house a dozen or more.
Some will accept women who have other children. Many times, maternity homes will house women and their new babies for months or even a year after birth, though this Louisville, Kentucky maternity home houses women until their children are four years old.
Maternity homes emphasize that a mother who stays with them must only be there voluntarily, and must be ready and willing to accept both help and new responsibilities. Generally, a “house mother” or a couple lives in the home with the residents to provide one-on-one support like a healthy family would. Residents are usually expected to rotate meal preparation or cleaning duties as in a normal family. Residents typically receive education on birthing, parenting, smoking cessation, nutrition, setting healthy boundaries, health, and more.
Most often, maternity homes do not accept applicants with active addictions, whether to opioids, other drugs, etc. However, this Virginia program helps pregnant moms connect with addiction recovery and this Ohio maternity home does accept clients with active addictions. Additionally, many maternity homes specify that applicants must be 18 years of age or older.
Broader Services for Pregnant Women
The ministries that run maternity homes often have a much larger current client base than just the women physically living in the home at one time. Many offer services such as counseling, transportation to and from doctor’s appointments, assistance finding a job, and much more, to dozens or even hundreds of other expectant moms. Some offer abortion healing programs for moms who chose abortion in a previous pregnancy.
A Few Examples of Maternity Homes
An ABC News affiliate in Austin, Texas, recently profiled one of the maternity homes experiencing an influx of calls since the enactment of the Heartbeat Act. Like many of the women leading pregnancy care centers or maternity homes across the nation, Breath of Life Home Ministries‘ director Jeannine Floores has a heart for the mission because she experienced her own unplanned pregnancy 20 years ago. “No one ever knows [maternity homes] exist until they need one,” she said, noting, “[Women] don’t run out of here with their whole world put together, but they know where to go when things fall apart. They know we’re still going to be here loving them. The end result is to establish a strong relationship with her so that she has the support she needs to do what she believes is best for her child.” Breath of Life Ministries has housed 300 women over the last 20 years.
Good Counsel maternity homes have served pregnant and parenting women in New York and New Jersey for over 35 years, and have helped 8,000 women and counting. They never closed their doors during the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing that for many pregnant women their need was greater than ever before. Their Westchester County, New York, home is specifically intended for pregnant women actively experiencing mental illness or substance abuse.
READ: The church must be a refuge for women experiencing unplanned pregnancies
Tennessee-based Foundation House Ministries offers housing, child care, and trauma informed care to women experiencing unplanned pregnancies. According to their client statistics page, 89% of their clients are former drug users, 85% grew up in chronically poor homes, and 82% are domestic violence survivors. In July of 2020, Foundation House reported serving their 100th mother since opening in 2014. Their next goal is to build a maternity home in Chattanooga.
A newly opened maternity home in Newark, New Jersey, Esther’s Place of Grace, houses four women at a time. Prospective clients undergo a screening process, and may either be pregnant or have a newborn up to three months old. Women and their children can stay for up to one year at Esther’s Place. Founder Mary Dow said, “Some of our goals are to have women come into the program – basically it’s the individuals’ goals that we seek to accomplish, that we want them to accomplish. Our ministry is to their physical, spiritual and emotional needs, and we want to empower them to focus on their goals while they’re in the program. They work on their life skills, healthy boundaries, healthy choices, breaking generational cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.”
Catholic Charities of Southeast Missouri is currently fundraising to build a second Lifehouse Crisis Maternity Homes location, this time in Cape Girardeau. The flagship Lifehouse in Springfield, Missouri, has served over 100 women since its 2013 opening. According to the informational page about the planned 15-unit home, overall benefits for communities with maternity homes include “decreased infant and maternal mortality, decreased homelessness, decreased substance abuse and associated monetary costs, decreased overall healthcare costs, increased employment and self-sufficiency, reduction in government assistance long-term, access to mental health care, [and] increased parenting skills to decrease child abuse/neglect.”
Clarity Solutions for Women in Elizabethtown, Kentucky, is also fundraising for a beautiful new maternity home, expected to open in 2022. For Clarity’s executive director Laura Dickinson, the maternity home is a response to a need identified through the organization’s pregnancy care center. She told Pregnancy Help News, “About six or seven clients a month coming through our medical clinic were saying they were homeless.”
How do I find a maternity home near me?
Heartbeat International’s Worldwide Directory of Pregnancy Help has over 7,000 pregnancy help service provider listings globally. As Live Action News previously noted, these listings include “traditional pregnancy centers and medical clinics, maternity support organizations, medical service providers, maternity homes and other residential programs, professional social service agencies, nonprofit adoption agencies, and abortion recovery programs.” Alternately, women can call the Option Line at 1-800-712-4357, text HELPLINE to 313131, or visit the Option Line website to get connected to local resources. Heartbeat International runs the National Maternity Housing Association, which seeks “[t]o inspire excellence among maternity home providers and articulate a collective voice.” All member programs strive to be “life-affirming maternity homes with a Christ-centered leadership and/or service model.”
Good Counsel Maternity Homes, mentioned above, also maintains a database specifically of maternity homes, with 240 listings across the country. Their helpline is 1-800-723-8331.
Maternity Homes directly contradict the claim that pro-lifers only care about babies at the expense of their often desperate, impoverished, or otherwise struggling mothers. The truth is that babies thrive when their mothers thrive, and maternity homes help set women and their children on a path for success.
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