By Suzanne Burns
When Ashley C. arrived at the faith-based maternity home in Tennessee, Foundation House Ministries, directly from a 6-month stint in jail, she was already nearly 8 months pregnant. Even if she weren’t so far along, it would be nearly impossible for her to find traditional employment. She would have found employment difficult regardless, because of her criminal past (several felony convictions for drugs and theft, repeated stays in jail over the previous 3 years) and did not have her GED or high school diploma.
On top of this, she was 28 years old and had two older children of whom she did not have custody.
Many employers would have seen her job application and immediately discarded it. Her few opportunities would likely have been in fast food or gas station settings. These positions generally pay poorly, offer a limited number of hours weekly (often below 30 hours), are limited to nights and weekends (when there are no available daycare centers open), and don’t offer any type of training or opportunities for advancement.
Too often, these types of positions are surrounded by other workers who are actively using drugs or have a poor work ethic, which increases the likelihood that she will fall back into old patterns of addiction and instability.
One client in recovery actually had her former drug dealer come through her line at the gas station where she worked. Imagine how challenging it would be to remain clean while surrounded by reminders of old habits and addictions.
But Foundation House is a different type of maternity home.
Thanks to their job-training program, Healing Springs Gifts, women like Ashley have a built-in opportunity to gain marketable skills while earning a living wage in the process.
Ashley’s story isn’t unique. About 70% of Foundation House clients arrive in the program without a high school diploma or GED. Nearly every woman has a history of significant to severe abuse – physical, emotional, and sexual. They have a history of generational poverty, chronic trauma, and addiction. Sobriety and stability go hand in hand.
Through her time with Healing Springs, each woman learns a broad range of hard and soft employability skills, such as time management, basic accounting, customer service, product manufacturing, shipping, inventory control, social media marketing, and much more.
She also is building a sense of self-worth and pride of accomplishment.
Each new client learns about these and other materials in order to educate the customers about the benefits of each product. This way, she doesn’t feel lectured every time she grabs a bite to eat, but rather is taught to appreciate healthy options and to recognize that what goes in her body and what goes on her body impact all aspects of her and her child’s health.
By learning that there ARE other options, she can begin to confidently make better and better choices. And these decisions will be her own, so even after she is no longer in the program, she can continue to make good decisions, even when they are more difficult or more costly because she appreciates their benefit and is willing to make sacrifices to achieve her goals.
Since Ashley’s arrival in September 2018, she has given birth to a gorgeous baby boy, accepted Christ in a local church, obtained her driver’s license for the first time in six years, completed her GED, and regained custody of her two older children.
She has also been promoted to Director of Operations for Healing Springs Gifts and is honing her management and leadership skills as she trains new clients in product manufacturing, sales and marketing, shipping, and other basic small business principles.
Ashley’s story is a true testimony to the potential for success of a program like Foundation House.
Ninety-five percent of our graduates are still maintaining their stability a year after graduation. Through these mentoring and employability skill-building opportunities, the goal is to equip each participant to achieve an assistant manager-level position.
If Healing Springs can help her move up even one rung on the ladder of success, they believe that she can move herself up even further.
She will be equipped not only with the knowledge and skills to succeed, but also the self-confidence that she needs to put these tools to use.
Editor’s note. This appeared at Pregnancy Help News and is reposted with permission.