Study Will Investigate Impact, Evolving Role of Maternity Homes in U.S.

The study is projected to launch this spring and continue for three to five years.

Baby feet in mother’s hands.
Baby feet in mother’s hands. (photo: Courtesy photo / _Nezemnaya_ (CC BY-ND 2.0).)

An upcoming study will consider the impact and evolving role of maternity homes in the United States, in the hope of better serving women with crisis pregnancies. 

The study is projected to launch this spring and continue for three to five years. It is a collaboration between the Catholic organization Heartbeat International and the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities

It will center on five maternity homes in the South and Midwest. 

The study aims to assess the impact of maternity homes today, standardize care across maternity homes, and better serve women experiencing crisis pregnancies across the nation.

Organizers also hope to secure funding for maternity homes with an “all-comprehensive approach to support for the entire family.”

“The heartbeat of this housing movement is to approach her more about the value of her own life, and help her with some long-term help,” said Valerie Humes, a housing specialist for Heartbeat International and director of the National Maternity Housing Coalition. 

“Now the mom can live in the home, or if she chooses, to live out of the home,” Humes said. “The mom still receives care and support through the process in the community through these maternity homes.” 

This shifting role of maternity homes reflects the reality of many women facing crisis pregnancies today, Humes suggested in an interview with Pregnancy Help News, which is managed by Heartbeat International. 

When maternity homes first began in the 1980s and ’90s, society was less forgiving of crisis pregnancies, she said. There were few school programs and state or federal subsidies to support women. But women would frequently return to their families after seeking the support of a maternity home. 

Today, maternity homes are reporting a rising correlation between crisis pregnancies and broken families, trafficking, or substance and domestic abuse, Humes said. 

“Now we are seeing that (reuniting with family) is not the case, because now these women are totally alone, abused and trafficked,” she said. “Now we see fourth-generation displaced family units, 50% to 70% in maternity homes experienced…foster care or have aged out of foster care.”

The maternity homes included in the study are Maggie’s Place in Phoenix, Ariz.; Our Lady’s Inn in Saint Louis, Mo.; Bethlehem House in Omaha, Neb.; In My Shoes in Dallas, Texas; and Aid for Women in Chicago, Ill.

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