On the cusp of the Black Hills which flank Wyoming and South Dakota, Women's Resource Center of Northeast Wyoming reaches out to ladies living in that area. The Center offers services similar to most pregnancy medical centers: pregnancy testing, ultrasound, and limited STD/STI testing and treatment.
The center, located in Gillette, Wyoming, also offers an Earn While You Learn program.
“It's DVD-based with homework and worksheets,” explained Operations Director Sawyer Poitra. “The program is personalized to the patients.”
About 35 women took part in the program last year, Sawyer said. She has found that many of the center's abortion-minded patients lean toward that decision due to finances - a fact that is borne out by the Guttmacher Institute's numbers citing that three of four women obtaining an abortion do so for financial reasons. The program, which is similar to the Colorado Springs LifeSteps program in which clients earn Baby Bucks, “is a great resource for our patients that might need that material assistance,” Sawyer said. Like the LifeSteps program, patients can return after the baby's birth and continue learning and earning.
“Our program is open to any of our patients, whether they are first-time moms or not,” Sawyer said.
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There is no set number of sessions that a woman attends, however, after 20 classes “they get a car seat,” she added.
True Care's Baby & Me program in Casper, about 130 miles southwest of Gillette, is comprised of 10 sessions. One group class is provided by the Children's Advocacy Project titled, "Recognition, Prevention and Reporting of Child Sexual Abuse." The other nine classes are one-on-one sessions personalized to the patient's needs and interests, Baby & Me program director Rebecca Tharp said.
True Care's program has similarities to and differences from an Earn While You Learn program.
“We offer one big incentive item, no Baby Bucks because we don't have a store,” Rebecca explained. “But we do have some of the same classes, like breastfeeding.”
Even though True Care doesn't have a baby boutique, those who participate in Baby & Me receive two gas gift cards and are given a layette when they bring their babies in “to meet the staff and volunteers.” Local church groups conduct 'baby showers' for True Care, collecting items to give to the moms after their baby's birth.
Patients learn about the prenatal and parenting programs offered by each pregnancy center during a patient's initial visit. Classes and the advocates who teach them provide the support most of the centers' patients need, according to the program directors.
“Its not just the materials (they get) – the program builds that relationship,” Sawyer stated. “We're a support person for them if they don't have the support at home.”
“We're often these girls' only support system,” Rebecca added.
Those who directly serve the moms-to-be agree.
“I see young women who are scared and hurting,” said Leannette Clapp-Meyer, one of five Baby & Me volunteer advocates at True Care. “They're expecting to be judged and beaten down – I want to build them up. I think the program helps them a lot.”
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Jeanne Hopkins, another Baby & Me advocate, agreed.
“You get to help them overcome their fears,” she said. “We help them find out how to be good parents. We see them all throughout their pregnancy, and we make good connections with most of them.”
Jeanne recalled one patient who “gobbled up everything” offered.
“She listened intently throughout all the sessions. She had no support (in town) except friends … and us,” Jeanne said.
One of the young women taking the Earn While You Learn program at the Gillette center is high school aged, said Sawyer. She didn't tell her parents right away about the unplanned pregnancy.
“That was the biggest thing,” Sawyer stated. “She went quite awhile without telling her parents, but has been very faithful about coming to classes. She showed so much responsibility: to be able to start the classes and learn and get the stuff before she told her parents.
“Of course, we encourage them to have that support and tell their parents,” Sawyer added. “It wasn't someone pushing her to do the classes, she took the initiative; she really wanted to be responsible and be prepared.”
Amy, who lives in Casper, has a similar story. The 17-year-old is taking online classes in order to graduate high school.
“It's helpful to keep my education going,” she said.
She is also attending True Care's Baby & Me classes.
“The program has given me a greater understanding of how to prepare for the life of my child,” Amy said.
She said she signed up for Baby & Me in order to learn how to be a better mom.“I think it's a very good opportunity for new mothers,” she said. “I like how they treat me here – the people are very nice, caring, and understanding, and they answer all the questions you have. They treated me as any mother having a child, not judging me because of my age. They are very kind and caring.”
This is part 2 in a 3-part series featuring the diverse parenting programs offered at pregnancy help organizations. Next Thursday, learn how these programs can impact lives for Christ. See part 1 of the 3-part series here.