Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington
Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302
Pregnancy and Parenting Support: A caring response of the Catholic community
by Lisa Green
(From the May 15, 2014 edition of the Inland Register)
As Catholics, we believe in and support the sanctity of all human life, from conception to natural death. In the model of our Holy Father, we are called upon to put this belief into concrete practice, providing meaningful support to those who may struggle with any of life’s stages. One area in which we as the Church in Washington State have found room for improvement is support and care at the beginning of life. What meaningful alternatives do we provide to the expectant mother or the struggling family with preschoolers? Do we offer those services in just a few places? How would those families know about these services and would they feel welcome?
In March of 2013, The Pregnancy and Parenting Task Force was established by the Washington State Catholic Conference in response to the bishops’ call for a clearly identified “Catholic” initiative serving women and couples during and after pregnancy. The bishops – Bishop Blase Cupich, Archbishop J. Peter Sartain of Seattle, and Bishop Joseph J. Tyson of Yakima – charged a task force with the development of an array of professional services within the Church’s existing diocesan social service agencies: Catholic Charities of Yakima, Catholic Charities of Spokane, and Catholic Community Services of Western Washington.
I had worked with Catholic Charities’ Childbirth and Parenting Assistance (CAPA) program. In February 2014 I was hired as program coordinator and the Pregnancy and Parenting Support Program (PrePareS) was created as a collaboration of pregnancy and parenting support services throughout the state. The vision statement for the program is: “PrePareS is a nurturing response of the Catholic community of Washington State; for people of every faith and no faith at all, to assist pregnant women, fathers, and their extended family by walking the journey from the first moment of conception through the first five years of their child’s life.”
PrePareS will “walk the journey” with pregnant and parenting women, men, and families who find themselves lacking a healthy support network. They will be able to access mentors and holistic wrap-around services from the time of awareness of pregnancy to the child’s fifth birthday. Some of the services provided will include client intake and assessment by trained staff professionals, pregnancy testing, parish-based mentors for mothers and fathers, parent support groups, and individual and couples counseling. The program will also provide rapid response and referrals for emergent needs – e.g. food, formula, diapers, housing and clothing, and adoption support and referrals for those parents wanting to place their child.
The statewide PrePareS program hopes to create a more accessible network of services to include families residing in areas not being served at this time. PrePareS will provide area coordinators who are knowledgeable in the local communities culture and pregnancy and parenting support needs. As we continue to receive calls from pastors in rural areas looking for programs to support parents in their parishes, a goal of the PrePareS program will be to provide outreach to areas such as Colville, Clarkston, and Pullman that have few, if any, pregnancy support services.
The hope is to create a network of parishes working in conjunction with PrePareS to reach more families. In providing services to these additional areas and communities, PrePareS will be able to serve up to 4,000 families in its first year. A key component of building this network through parish partnerships will be meeting with Catholic organizations and agencies, including Catholic health care.
Once fully realized, the PrePareS network will provide meaningful, professional and sustainable support to vulnerable Washington mothers, fathers, and families as they nurture their children through pregnancy and early childhood. The bishops wish to convey that PrePareS is an exciting new step forward to make more real our Church’s commitment to the sanctity of human life, especially in its most vulnerable early stages. PrePareS is intended to serve as the fundamental coordinated, integrated Catholic community’s response to this pressing social need. It seeks not only to assure healthy births and avoid the tragedy of abortion, but also to provide tangible psycho-social and emotional support to nurture healthy and flourishing relationships that uphold a Catholic vision of the family as the essential unit of society.
Aware that it will be difficult to connect with women and men who are scared and feel alone facing an unplanned pregnancy, PrePareS will implement a statewide 1-800 number, and a statewide website. One of the most impactful parts of this outreach will be working with support programs such as CAPA that has a strong community connection and has built trust relationships with parents for almost 30 years in the community.
Rob McCann, director of Catholic Charities Spokane, believes that the PrePareS program is a profoundly important moment for the Diocese and the entire State. “It is wonderful to see a local model, the Catholic Charities Spokane CAPA model, be expanded on and spread out to Catholic parishes in every corner of our State,” he said. “This program will create a clear, consistent and immediate response to any parishioners or any community members at large in any parish in the State of Washington who find themselves in need of assistance as a result of an unplanned pregnancy. Thanks to the PrePareS program, women will be empowered to make the choice to say ‘yes’ to life and feel completely supported in that choice.”
Based on CAPA’s experience, PrePareS will first reach out to parents seeking support in a systematic process. The first encounter is often to meet such emergent needs as diapers, clothing, and formula, as well as providing someone who is compassionate and caring. When a parent feels secure in meeting their family’s emergent needs they can begin to discuss the long-term support. The PrePareS program will walk the journey with them and provide support from the time of conception to the child’s fifth birthday.
(For more information on PrePareS please contact Lisa Green, Program Coordinator, at email@example.com.)
(You are encouraged to attend the Cornerstone Catholic Conference, sponsored by the Washington State Catholic Conference on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 24-25, in Tacoma, Wash. There will be a full presentation about the PrePareS program and PrePareS staff available to explain how to access services at this conference. For more information please visit the website at www.cornerstonecatholic.com)
(IR photo courtesy of Catholic Charities)
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