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12/13/1998
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Program offers women, girls alternative to abortion
By Loretta Shea Kline
Catholic Key Reporter

pregnancyrgb.JPG
Loretta Shea Kline/Key photo
Jan Motl, with the Pregnancy Maintenance Network, holds a pamphlet outlinging services.
KANSAS CITY - Women and girls in Missouri facing a crisis pregnancy are finding alternatives to abortion through the Pregnancy Maintenance Network.

The program - administered in the Kansas City metropolitan area and northwest and northeast Missouri by Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph - links women and girls at risk for having an abortion with resources and services to help them maintain a healthy pregnancy, deliver a healthy baby and have hope for the future.

"The goal of the program is to promote a positive outcome to a woman's pregnancy," said Jan Motl, a licensed social worker and coordinator of the program for Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph. "We want to have healthy moms and healthy babies."

Some of the services that clients may be eligible for include prenatal and medical care, domestic abuse protection, drug and alcohol testing and treatment, housing assistance, education programs, job training and placement, adoption assistance, newborn or infant care, child care and parenting skills training. The network also offers assistance to fathers in obtaining help with such needs as job training and parenting skills.

Any Missouri woman or girl in a crisis pregnancy who, after an assessment by a case manager, is deemed to be at risk for having an abortion is eligible, Motl said. The program served some 275 women and girls statewide in its first fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, she said.

Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph began serving clients in the program last March, and currently serves 75 women and girls, Motl said.

"The program is still in its infancy," she said. "We're still brand new."

The Missouri Catholic Conference lobbied state legislators last session to provide funding for alternatives-to-abortion programming, the MCC said. The MCC is the public policy arm of the Missouri bishops.

Lawmakers last year allocated approximately $945,000 to the Missouri Department of Health to be used throughout the state for alternatives to abortion services, Motl said. The health department subsequently awarded a $705,000 contract to the Adoption and Foster Care Coalition of Missouri to provide services statewide.

Four of the coalition agencies implement the Pregnancy Maintenance Network program, Motl said. The agencies are Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Kansas City and three St. Louis agencies, Catholic Services to Youth, Lutheran Children and Family Services and Missouri Baptist Children's Home.

A woman facing a crisis pregnancy may call toll free 1-800-392-0877, and a program coordinator will connect her with the service provider in her area. Motl also receives referrals from other agencies and gets walk-ins at her office at 11th and Broadway.

Women and girls may seek help through the program at any stage of their pregnancy, and may continue receiving assistance for up to a year after the baby is born, Motl said. Some clients may require minimal assistance such as a month's rent to get through a short-term crisis, while others may need all of their medical expenses paid, she said.

"We have some women who have limited needs, and some women who have many, many needs," Motl said.

In the program, a case manager meets with the client to determine what resources other than those provided through the program are available to meet her needs.

"We don't want to do for clients what they can do for themselves," Motl said.

The case manager and client then work together on a service plan designed to meet the client's individual needs. The extent of follow-up depends on the client, Motl said.

Besides case management, the greatest need for pregnant women seeking assistance in the Kansas City metropolitan area is housing, Motl said.

"Finding appropriate places to raise children on a limited income is a real challenge," she said.

"All mothers want their children raised in a safe, supported environment."

One young woman in the program lived in a small apartment with 10 family members, Motl said.

"Every time I talked to her on the phone, I would hear arguing in the background," she said.

The stress resulting from the overcrowded conditions threatened the health of the woman and her baby, Motl said. The woman was able to find other housing with the help of her case manager.

Motl recalled another young woman who found hope despite the many problems that she faced. The woman was single with an unplanned pregnancy and had a difficult living situation at home. The woman also suffered from depression, and at one point had stopped working with her mental health care provider, Motl said.

"We were able to get her out of an unhealthy living arrangement and helped establish an independent living situation," she said.

In addition, the woman received job training and, with the encouragement of her case manager, sought treatment for her depression, Motl said. The woman is now working and has her child in day care.

"She has made a drastic change, and she is headed in the right direction because of some of the assistance offered by the case manager," Motl said.


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