Catholic Charities is helping homeless pregnant women and new mothers to look beyond simply finding their next meal and putting a roof over their heads. Progress is slow but steady.
You could say they’re taking baby steps.
The pro-life Roselia Pregnancy and Parenting Support program has transitioned from a fully-staffed center in Pittsburgh’s Oakland neighborhood to downtown apartments that house up to 11 women and their babies.
Residents may stay as long as 24 months, paying 30 percent of their income toward a savings account and as a program fee while they learn parenting, housekeeping, budgeting and work skills that will serve them for a lifetime.
The gifts of some 45,000 families and individuals to Our Campaign for The Church Alive! created an endowment that will fund this commitment for years to come.
“In counseling, we ask our clients about hopes for their future,” said Susan Rauscher, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. “We invite them to dream for their children until they can dream for themselves.”
In the previous program at the Roselia Center, many new moms would try to get the staff to care for their babies while they headed out the door for a break.
Under the new model, participants must fulfill a series of requirements such as meeting with their caseworker, going to school or work, finding day care, seeing the doctor, taking parenting classes and receiving therapy.
“This is a more structured program than many of the women are used to,” Rauscher said. “We understand that it can be frustrating at times as they learn new skills and how to look at life differently.”
Not everyone is ready to fully participate in the program, which often means leaving old habits and influences behind.
Caseworker Vicky Mosley works one-on-one with the new mothers.
“They need to schedule their own medical appointments and make good decisions for themselves and their little ones,” Mosley said. “We talk about ways to show kindness, treating themselves and others with respect.”
In parenting classes the women learn how to feed, bathe and dress their babies, when to move from formula to food, basic infancy CPR and the importance of never leaving their child alone.
“We also ask them about their gifts—what talents has God given me?” Rauscher said. “Ultimately we want them to learn how to dream beyond what they might do if they won the lottery.”
“Raising a child is hard work and this approach serves them well,” said Cathy Niebel, director of program effectiveness. “We teach skills that many parents might take for granted, but it’s what these women need and want in their lives.”
The need continues to grow across our diocese. In 2013, counseling time for Roselia Pregnancy and Parenting Support increased 35 percent, with nearly 1,000 people receiving services.
“The campaign donations really go a long way,” Rauscher said. “As soon as the women start to see their own accomplishments, they feel pride and you build on that.
“They really are taking baby steps.”