For many women, impending motherhood is a momentous event, often filled with laughter, joy, baby showers, nursery decorating, and bright hopes for the future.
But for women going through tough times who don’t have family or friends to support them, being a mother can be incredibly overwhelming — just to get through each day. They don’t think they can take care of themselves, much less their children. And sometimes, to give both their child and themselves the best chance to survive and thrive, they make the decision to place one or more of their children for adoption — even if they don’t really want to.
Over her 30 years’ of experience in social services, eight of them with Holt International, Nancy Crouch has seen more than her share of heartbroken mothers, sitting in her office in tears, facing this same dilemma. And as the director for domestic adoption and birth parents services at Holt-Sunny Ridge, Holt International’s Illinois and Wisconsin branch, Nancy is in the position to help empower these women and change their lives.
Holt-Sunny Ridge aims to change women’s lives through empowerment
“Providing hope to others has really become my life’s work,” Nancy says, “starting with empowering women — helping them learn the tools to become self-sufficient and to keep their family together. Giving them hope that things will improve in their lives, that they will have more self-esteem and feel capable of taking care of themselves and their children.”
Through her work, Nancy helps mothers who want to place their children for adoption to find peace in their decision. She also helps them cope with the grief and loss associated with adoption. But mostly, she tries to help women see that adoption isn’t the only option they have — that they can learn to take care of themselves and their children on their own.
This idea is the seed behind Holt-Sunny Ridge’s “Empowering Women, Strengthening Families” (EWSF) Program. According to Nancy, mothers who came to us who were considering adoption for their children are in crisis mode. They’re often out of work, homeless and alone. They don’t have family or friends or any form of support in place to help them.
Through a generous foundation grant, Nancy and her team were able to start EWSF. The fund is used to help struggling mothers and their children by providing everything from housing, food and transportation to childcare and clothing until they can get on their feet.
More importantly, the EWSF fund helps women become self-sufficient and able to independently parent their children through a range of programs. These programs include therapy and counseling, as well as workshops covering a wide array of topics, from career development to personal finance, from nutrition and healthy lifestyles to developing healthy relationships. The program takes a holistic approach to empowering women and paving a way for them to find success in their lives.
The EWSF program has provided services to mothers in crisis for over two years, with plans to grow as new partnerships form — providing additional funding and support through volunteerism. Nancy said there are many ways that corporations and organizations can get involved. One way involves teaching EWSF participants the nitty-gritty details of personal finance.
“Mainly, we teach our moms basic budgeting and opening a checking and savings account,” shares Nancy. “But some of our moms are ready for a higher level. They really want to analyze and build their credit, so they need more one-on-one support. They may want to learn about different types of savings programs and other ways to gain financial progress. We’re hoping to have volunteers with expertise in this area to be able to help them one on one with learning about different ways to manage finances.”
Empowering women does change lives
Nancy emphasizes that the EWSF program is structured to teach participants the life skills they need to have long-term success, not just offer short-term solutions. And through the program, Nancy has seen many women’s lives change for the better.
Nina, a single mom to three children, joined the EWSF program in March, 2018. Nina had a traumatic past, losing her mom at birth and growing up in a dangerous downtown Chicago neighborhood. Despite her difficulties growing up and having to raise two kids on her own, Nina managed to graduate high school and start her own party-planning business.
Things came to a breaking point shortly after she gave birth to her third child. Her cousin was shot and killed right on her front porch, forcing Nina to move her family to a quieter suburban neighborhood. However, the move put a stop to her business and took her away from her family. The pressures of having to provide for her children and herself without any income or family support made Nina desperate. It came to the point where she considered placing all three of her kids for adoption.
That’s when she learned about Holt-Sunny Ridge and the EWSF program. Through EWSF and the consistent help of a Holt-Sunny Ridge social worker, Nina saw that her situation wasn’t hopeless. With counseling and guidance, she slowly got back on her feet. The program helped cover childcare and provided tools she needed. By the time she graduated from the program in September, 2018, Nina had more self-esteem as a woman and as a parent, and she returned to her business with more skills to help her succeed.
As of this writing, Nina has a growing events-planning business, with her own office space and employees. She’s renting an apartment, has her own car, and is taking college courses. More importantly, she’s emotionally stable and feels more capable of successfully parenting and providing for her kids. Additionally, Nina gives back to Holt-Sunny Ridge by volunteering as a mentor for other moms in the EWSF program.
“What we’re trying to do is to remove all the barriers so that women can succeed,” says Nancy. “We’re looking to give women long-term solutions and tools to continue with their success.”
To learn about EWSF eligibility or to make a referral to the program, please contact Loann at email@example.com.
Originally published by Linda Wilson on Nov 12, 2019