Pregnancy help centers are focused on one main goal: helping women and girls who are facing unexpected pregnancies. Many of these women are dealing with pressure to abort their babies based on either financial circumstances or their young age, and sometimes both. But pregnancy help centers and medical clinics are there to help by providing resources, access to medical care, ultrasounds, and even baby gear.
However, these life-affirming centers often face an uphill battle when it comes to reaching the girls and women who are most in need of their services. In order to overcome those obstacles, many centers have reimagined the plans they’ve put in place.
They have needed to figure out a way to reach into the communities where women are most vulnerable to abortion, and do it within their extremely tight budgets. Despite the challenges, CareNet Pregnancy Services of DuPage, Ill., has succeeded at doing just that.
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“The biggest barrier to reaching more women and creating more centers out there is overhead. That’s a big part of it,” Barbara Singer, the organization’s executive director, said. “If we could cut our expenses in half or even less and reach into areas that we have not been able to reach into before, that would make a big difference.
“What we’re trying to reach into is high impact, like across from a college or high school or a downtown area where you’ve heard there’s a lot of need. Space is not available or it’s so expensive you can’t possibly get in there. But with a partnership, you can.”
CareNet Pregnancy Services of DuPage runs six pregnancy centers in DuPage County, which reaches into portions of Chicago. Two of the locations are express centers, in which CareNet has partnered with two local churches to cut down on expenses while still being able to reach out to women in need of their services.
According to Singer, the plan for express centers calls for collaborating with medical clinics, community clinics, counseling centers, medical offices and churches that don’t look too traditional. The locations are generally smaller than the average pregnancy center, but CareNet is able to use them at low cost or no cost a few times a week.
At its location inside a church building directly across from a high school, CareNet is able to be there when school lets out for the day, reaching girls who think they might be pregnant, as well as girls who are facing unplanned pregnancies. The express center allows Singer and her team to provide free pregnancy testing, limited ultrasounds, and help girls who are seeking support.
“They allow us to go in several days a week, and some have even dedicated space to us so we’ve been able to build it out,” Singer said. “We bought a portable ultrasound machine that can go from office to office. It’s a partnership. It’s a collaboration. You’re sharing this space and it’s individual. Some of these, they might charge us rent, some just say, you know, we believe in what you’re doing and we’ve got the spare space so we’d like you to come in. It maximizes our reach and it’s more sustainable growth.”
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New Life Family Services, based in Minneapolis, Minn., is also working towards reaching vulnerable communities through express centers, and is are planning to open one in an urban location.
“You can’t come in as a do-gooder organization and say, ‘We’re going to save you.’ You want to start with a well-established, respected organization and support them,” Tammy Kocher, executive director, said. “[The goal is] taking the clients they’re already seeing and fully meeting the needs of those clients. Supplement the work they’re already doing.”
New Life Family Services has already established relationships with other organizations, bringing post-abortion information to a Teen Challenge location and exchanging services with an organization which provides fatherhood classes and healthy parenting classes. This allows each establishment to provide their current clients with new and different services.
With four First Care Pregnancy Centers already established, New Life Family Services provides pregnancy testing, ultrasounds, parenting education programs, social work, adoption services, and a program allowing parents to earn diapers, wipes, baby clothes, maternity clothes, car seats, strollers and formula until their child turns 2 years old.
The goal is to mobilize the staff, sending them out to where the people in need are. Kocher said they would also like to establish a small space in an urban area with social work services, client care, parenting classes and free pregnancy tests.
In DuPage County, CareNet Pregnancy Services plans to have 10 pregnancy centers in operation by 2018. Aurora, Ill. has one of the largest Planned Parenthood mega centers in the world with the capacity to perform 13,000 abortions a year.
“They know they’re here for a reason,” said Singer. “So we’re trying to reach those women. We want to be saving 1,300 lives every year.”