For decades, pregnant and new mothers have turned to Catholic Charities when they had no one else. Catholic Charities’ Pregnancy Support and Open Adoption Services is the oldest continuous program at Catholic Charities. It has maintained adoption records dating back to 1902 and continues to provide support to all members of the adoption triad — adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents.

Catholic Charities is enhancing this program for pregnant women and families with young children by adding critical mental health services and extending the length of time during which they provide services from three months to two years. With the launch of the Family Support and Counseling Services unit, Catholic Charities is responding to an unmet need in the community. For many pregnant women and young mothers, especially those who have experienced trauma, it can be nearly impossible for them to live a stable life and provide for their children without the support of counseling and therapeutic services, in addition to case management. 

One such example is Miriam, a young mother who currently recieves case management and counseling from Catholic Charities. She is homeless and lives in her car with her four children, including a baby. She first came to Catholic Charities when she was pregnant with her fourth child and in an abusive relationship. Working with staff, she developed a plan to safely leave the relationship, secure employment and send her children to school. 

Catholic Charities staff members have learned that when they build trust and work closely with a client for longer than six months, they see better results and more stability. Because the program has grown, clients now can receive support that is tailored to their complex needs. As Emily Noack, one of the program’s licensed clinical social workers put it, “We try to wrap services and support around our clients.” In addition to case management and counseling, Catholic Charities offers a trauma group, community referrals, mentoring and emergency assistance. 

Nearly all of the women and young families who turn to Catholic Charities are struggling with many issues. They face barriers such as homelessness, unemployment, isolation, addiction, trauma and domestic violence, in addition to parenting and pregnancy challenges. Catholic Charities staff members are compassionate and, foremost, build trust with each client. At the heart of the relationship is love and care for the whole person. 

With the expansion of the program, Noack and staff feel empowered to do more. 

“I don’t feel limited in how I can help a client,” she said. “I get to make a difference. I’m helping the person — not just their situation.”

Granger is manager of donor engagement for Catholic Charities.