Trauma-informed approach instrumental in success
Foundation House Ministries of Cleveland, TN, recently celebrated bringing its 100th mom into the maternity home—a major milestone.
Their feature ministry is a maternity home where residents are encouraged to learn how past trauma effects choices and everyday experiences.
Suzanne Burns, the founder of this six year old ministry and its executive director, said that being so busy at the house with new babies and mamas, getting girls into jobs and growth plans, and everything else going on in the world these days, this significant moment nearly passed without fanfare.
“We almost missed the fact that we just brought in our 100th mama into our program,” Burns told supporters last week.
“This is a huge, huge accomplishment,” she said, not only those who are working there day by day, but also for Foundation House’s supporters.
She pointed out that 100 moms served by Foundation House means at least 100 babies have been blessed by the ministry, and more, since some women have more than one child.
Heartbeat International’s Housing Specialist Mary Peterson explained that typically in maternity housing programs women can stay at a home for close to a year, or more, so the number of women served annually can be quite small, depending on the number of beds a program has and how long the mom stays.
Peterson said Foundation House having served 100 residential clients in the home since 2014 is significant.
“It's a great milestone!” she said.
Burns was prompted to open Foundation House by her seven years of working at a pregnancy help center.
Burns sees the opportunity of ministry within a maternity home as holding the potential for maximum impact to teach women to overcome the past and prepare to work through future obstacles with more grace and better outcomes. Residents remain anywhere from six months to a year with Burn noting, “The longer they stay, the better the outcomes.”
Currently the ministry offers six moms housing with an overflow bunk room for emergencies which can double that number. Clients have the choice of whether to accept assistance in improving their situation, but they must commit to be accepted into the program.
“Clients buying-in is essential from day one,” Burns said. “Getting her to understand she has a choice. We can’t guarantee she’s going to buy-in, but we seek to establish if she is willing.”
An unexpected pregnancy is challenging enough, but many of Foundation House clients have experienced past traumas which multiply their needs physically and emotionally. This drives the plan of care for the ministry, and Foundation House offers trauma-informed training to individuals involved in the ministry.
“We clarify that this is not a lockdown facility,” said Burns. “We are a family-building connection from the get go. The ministry operates from a place of love and not of shame. So the first message to the client is, we understand what has happened to you and if you are ready to choose a different way of life, we can help you get there.”
Burns starts from day-one assessing and working with clients.
“Trauma is so pervasive,” she said. “It’s so difficult to mitigate.”
“The interesting thing about trauma is, it really kind of depends on when the trauma occurred,” Burns stated. “Whether it began as a child or whether it was kind of uniquely adulthood. That really determines how quickly and how effectively they can grow beyond it.”
A renowned psychologist, Daniel Kahneman, writes about how mental systems work when making decisions and describes the mechanics behind choices.
According to Kahneman, system one is the part of your brain that handles automatic reactions. System two takes intentional thought, and learning to use system two enables the individual to take back control of mind and body in high-pressure situations.
This is critical information for pregnancy help staff. To simplify it, Ben Carnes, a mental training coach and podcaster explains the two different systems.
In the setting of a maternity home, Burns has demonstrated that teaching residents to understand the effect trauma has had on their lives and choosing to use this knowledge can lead to a different way of life.
Tweet This: Teaching residents to understand the effect of trauma in their lives & choosing to use this knowledge can lead to a different way of life
Foundation House residents are offered job training through the Healing Springs Gifts enterprise. They employ moms who have been with them 30 or more days to operate the business, which sells lotion, soaps, bath salts and facial scrubs.
“Learning about the poverty mindset was critical,” Burns said, recommending the book, “When Helping Hurts.”
Foundation House also serves 75 non-residential clients each year through classes and trainings. These sessions include job search strategies, career development and parenting classes.
The success of Foundation House has Burns passionate about growing the ministry. Originally Foundation House rented a home to house women, but they later purchased 10 acres of property and moved into two buildings there.
Future plans include developing apartments, potentially a community of 150 units. This transition to expand beyond the maternity home model will serve families, utilizing case management, life skills classes and support.
Burns has helped numerous individuals start up maternity homes and hopes many more will follow.
This prompted her to create an online resource for establishing a maternity home.
Burns has a vision for satellite Foundation House Ministries throughout the nation, “To encourage other communities to live next to these women and teach them holistically as Jesus taught His disciples,” she said.
A critical component of support for Burns is the National Maternity House Coalition. This organization provides trainings and weekly meets online to support and pray for one another.
Burns also stressed the need for self-care for maternity housing staff. Ministering is challenging work, she noted, and for pro-life ministries to succeed in understanding clients’ needs, it will come from having a healthy mindset.
Burns encourages those interested in starting or serving in maternity housing ministry to dig deeper into the possibility.
“It begins with awareness, training and understanding,” she said, “and then follow through with application.”