The following is an outline of the information available about our Illinois Pregnancy Support Services. Many of your questions will be answered, but if you have other questions, please call us at 630-653-6400 and ask for the PSS Supervisor or Intake Worker.
A. Agency History
C. Description of Services
D. Basic Eligibility Criteria
E. Summary of Pregnancy Support Services Practices
F. Illinois Abandoned Newborn Infant Protection Act
H. Complaint Process
In 1946, a young woman left her baby girl in a Campbell’s soup box at the women’s dormitory of Moody Bible Institute. What was going through this young mother’s thoughts as she walked away? It is clear that she cared deeply for her baby and carefully brought her to a Christian agency that would help provide care for her. It is sad that this mother may have never received emotional care or options counseling to inform her of parenting and adoption choices.
(If you are a parent of a child that is less than thirty days old and you feel that you are in a crisis, not able to parent, and do not wish to be involved in planning for the child’s adoption, please see Safe Haven for information on making a safe plan for your child.)
From the time of its inception, ECFA has placed great emphasis on counseling and providing care to individuals, couples and families dealing with an unplanned pregnancy. Years ago, many of these young women would choose adoption because single parenting was not considered acceptable due to society’s stigma. Over the years, the tide has turned, and single parenting is seen as a viable option for many people faced with an unplanned pregnancy. Pregnancy Support Services was established out of the need to provide free, professional counseling to women, couples, and families to better inform, educate and equip them to make the best possible decisions for themselves and their babies.
The vision statement of ECFA states: “We provide compassionate Christ-centered services, offering hope and healing to children, adults and families.”
Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA) is a 501(c)3, not-for-profit, Child Welfare Agency licensed by the state of Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (Child Welfare License #006726-10.) All of the services of ECFA, are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Services for Children and Families (COA). ECFA is affiliated with the following organizations:
- Child Welfare League of America
- Child Care Association of Illinois
- United Way of Metropolitan Chicago
- Evangelical Council on Financial Accountability
- National Association of Evangelicals
ECFA provides services at locations in Illinois and Wisconsin. Wisconsin service sites are located in New Berlin and Green Bay. Wisconsin residents can learn about the Wisconsin Pregnancy Support Services program at www.ecfawisc.org, or by calling 262-789-1881. The Illinois service site is located in Wheaton, but the workers are able to travel to meet clients at a convenient location. The phone number is 630-653-6400; the fax number is 630-653-6490. ECFA’s web site is located at www.evancfa.org. Pregnancy Support Services web site is located at www.pregsupport.org.
The information described on this web site will provide helpful guidance for persons seeking support in addressing an unplanned pregnancy. Reading it over may help you to determine whether or not you might be interested in contacting Pregnancy Support Services. Please call if we can be of assistance to you or someone you know.
The Mission Statement of Evangelical Child and Family Agency includes the following statements: “Protect and nurture neglected and dependent children” and “strengthen the quality of life for individuals and families.”
Consistent with those statements, Pregnancy Support Services is dedicated to serving, from a pro-life perspective, individuals experiencing unplanned pregnancies. Services include (but are not limited to) counseling, case management, and medical referrals. Counseling is geared around the pregnancy, but also relates to the overall emotional health of the client.
Philosophy of Service
When a pregnancy occurs, many changes and stressors lie ahead. This is often magnified when the pregnancy is unplanned. Individuals in this situation benefit from talking with an objective counselor who has information regarding their options and the community services available. Pregnancy Support Services provides professional counseling to individuals, couples (married or unmarried), and families experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. The expectant parents can then develop a child care plan that is best for the child.
The PSS team strongly believes in client self-determination. Each client is helped to decide what she feels is best for herself and her child, given her unique circumstances. The PSS team will inform, educate, and support her throughout the process of decision-making.
Parenting: If an individual decides to parent her child, the PSS team will help prepare her for the challenges and joys of that decision. The PSS worker will offer education on infant development, parenting and discipline approaches, and help her manage co-parenting and relationship issues with the birth father or grandparents, should they arise. It is our desire that each client who parents, receives the tools to parent effectively. Services last until the child reaches six months old or a client chooses to end services.
Adoption: If an individual chooses adoption for her child, the PSS worker will help her develop an adoption plan that she is comfortable with. This may involve the selection of an adoptive family, the degree of openness that she desires, and emotional preparation for the adoption. Counseling is provided after the child has been placed for adoption for up to six months. It is our hope that each client who places her child for adoption, will do the important emotional work of grieving the loss of her child, so that she can experience peace related to this decision. For more information on adoption, see ECFA’s Adoption website.
The staff of ECFA’s Pregnancy Support Services program are all professional, compassionate women, who care deeply about pregnant women, children, couples and families. They believe that through tough times such as unplanned pregnancies, women can become stronger, more mature, and exhibit incredible self-sacrifice through both options of adoption or parenting. Our staff has over 20 years of experience in working with pregnant women and is committed to working with individuals and families in crisis. All of the staff are Master’s level professionals, many of whom have achieved the optimal state license for their profession. Our staff of two full-time PSS workers have the expertise to assist women, couples or families to develop a well thought out plan for themselves and the baby.
The PSS Program offers four specific types of services:
- Professional Counseling: Counseling is offered in relation to all aspects of the pregnancy. This includes help with decisions regarding the baby, use of community resources, establishing educational and vocational goals, issues related to self-esteem, grief, and problems in family relationships.
- Baby Care Family: If the client is choosing adoption, a Baby Care Family can care for her child until the final paperwork is completed. This protects the client as she is able to make a final decision that is not based on undue pressure if the child is with the prospective adoptive parents before surrenders are completed. It also protects the prospective adoptive parents from becoming attached to a child that is not yet legally theirs. It also provides the Baby Care Family an opportunity to care for and LOVE the child that is with them for a short time. Our Baby Care Families are licensed and known well by our staff. They are people who love infants, but are not looking to adopt. They see this work as a ministry and a time to provide unconditional and supportive love to the baby, the birthmom, and the potential adoptive family. If the birthmom chooses, she is able to visit the baby during this time. If she chooses, the adoptive family is also welcome to visit the child often during the baby’s short stay with the Baby Care Family. This option is used in the following situations: The birthmom needs more time to make a decision, the agency is unable to take birthmom’s surrenders right away for various reasons, or the baby is discharged from the hospital before birthmom is able to sign surrenders. It is normal for a birthparent to worry about the care and love her child receives during this placement. However, our agency knows and loves our Baby Care Families and we will try to communicate to you, through pictures and information, how much joy our Baby Care Families have by providing care and how much love they share with the baby.
- Medical and Health Services: The PSS worker will assist each client in arranging for pre-natal, hospital, and post-partum care for the client and child. PSS may also refer for child birth classes, Public Aid, and Women, Infant & Children (WIC). If needed, PSS is able to offer free pregnancy tests at the Wheaton office.
- Child Care Plan: The PSS team helps to educate each client about available options, and assists the client in developing an appropriate plan for the child. PSS provides free, short-term care (usually up to two weeks) in baby care homes if a client has not yet made a decision regarding the child, or if a client needs extra time to prepare for parenting. These homes may also be used as part of an adoption process. More information on each child care option is provided below:
- Parenting: If a client is interested in parenting her child, the PSS worker is able provide education on the following: personal growth and maturity; interpersonal relationships; early childhood development; infant stimulation and cognitive development; safety and accident prevention; physical care; nutrition and health of infants and young children; signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect; budget and household management; and community resources that provide further assistance. The amount and type of information given varies with each client.
- Adoption Plan: When the client’s choice for her child is adoption, the worker will help the client in preparing the adoption which may include grief counseling and the legal process of adoption. The PSS worker will help the client decide what type of adoption she desires regarding future contact (also referred to as openness). In most situations, the client will select the adoptive family from several adoptive family profiles provided to her. (Samples of “Dear Birthmother” letters from some of ECFA’s available families). After selecting a family, the client may choose to meet with the family to become better acquainted. Subsequent visits may occur prior to birth or while client and baby are still in the hospital, or at the time of placement if the parties choose. The client and the adoptive family, along with the involvement of the PSS worker and adoption worker, will develop an Openness Agreement based upon each party’s desires regarding continued contact. ECFA has a Post-Legal Adoption Worker who specializes in helping the adoptive triad stay connected in the future.
- Abortion: As a Christian organization, the PSS team is committed to assisting women who are facing unplanned pregnancies in carrying their pregnancy to full-term. Abortion is seen as a destructive and painful decision that is often made out of desperation, based only on the needs of the parent who may be misinformed or under informed about their other options. By coming along side women dealing with unplanned pregnancies, PSS seeks to provide hope and light in this often dark and lonely time. For women who have chosen abortion, the PSS team wants to extend compassion and God’s forgiveness by offering individual or group support, through the use of a post-abortion Bible study and counseling.
In order to assist clients comprehensively, the workers may refer clients to agencies within the community who can provide support groups, as well as legal, employment, and vocational services.
Residence: Clients must live in Illinois within a 50-mile radius of our offices. This generally includes persons living in the Illinois counties of Boone, Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Grundy, Kane, Kankakee, Kendall, Lake, LaSalle (west of I-39), McHenry, Ogle, and Will.
Spiritual Affiliation: There is no spiritual or religious requirement for being part of the PSS program. The PSS social workers are evangelical Christians, who practice their counseling from this perspective. At the same time, PSS believes in client self-determination and respects the client’s level of interest, or possibly no interest, in spiritual matters.
Age: Women of all ages are eligible for services. Any client under the age of 18, who is seeking services, will be required to obtain parent or guardian written permission to meet with a PSS worker more than four times.
Marital Status: Married and unmarried couples as well as single women and men often find great value in the PSS services and are eligible to receive services.
Health: The primary requirement for services is that the woman is pregnant or believes that she is. Once a pregnancy is confirmed, the worker will assist the woman in obtaining medical care for the duration of the pregnancy and post-partum care.
Cost for Services: All services through the PSS program are provided free of charge.
Process for Obtaining Services: Clients become aware of Pregnancy Support Services through many sources, such as crisis pregnancy centers, physicians, human service agencies, clergy, and this web site. The process begins with a phone call, e-mail message, or a face-to-face visit. After learning about the program, an appointment will be set up with a PSS worker. An appointment is made with the client at the earliest available time, since the client may be anxious to speak with someone. The initial session is held at location of the client’s choice. The PSS worker will further explain services, and will give the client an opportunity to ask questions and describe her circumstances. The worker will assist with any urgent needs. The client will also complete paperwork to become a client. Confidentiality is a critical aspect of our services. All information obtained through counseling will be held strictly confidential. No information will be released to any other party unless the client has given explicit consent by signing a release form. All PSS workers are considered Mandated Reporters by the State of Illinois, and are required to report any cases of suspected abuse or neglect. Such a report may be made with or without the client’s permission.
Professional Counseling: In an effort to meet the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of the clients, PSS provides free professional counseling to help the clients manage their pregnancy and the decision-making surrounding it. The services are available to the pregnant woman, the father of the baby, and others who are closely involved in their lives. When appropriate and the client chooses, the worker will include these people in services. The person experiencing an unplanned pregnancy is faced with many decisions throughout the pregnancy. The most crucial decisions involves the future of the child. The PSS worker does not make this decision for the client, but rather helps her to consider the alternatives and decide what would be best for both the child and the client. See the education section below for further explanation. Recognizing that the pregnancy can be the result of many factors and difficulties, exploration of other issues and goals may also be beneficial during this time. Regaining self-esteem, developing strengths, and the promotion of healthy thinking are matters which can be explored in an effort that leads to a more positive and satisfying life.
Education: An important part of services involves educational preparation for parenting or placing for adoption. Throughout counseling the worker will educate the client about the primary options of parenting and adoption. Whether a client has decided to parent or place for adoption, the worker will help prepare her for that experience. Parenting: For clients who plan to parent their child, much time and energy is spent helping them prepare. All parents want to be the best parents they can, so the worker helps educate them about what it takes to be a good, consistent and nurturing parent. Some clients have not been parented well themselves, so this may be very new information for them. Areas of specific education include: child birth techniques, early childhood development, basic baby care, post-partum self-care and depression, discipline for small children, stress management, budgeting, goal setting, and identifying and using community resources.
Adoption: For those who have decided adoption is the preferred option, there is much emotional preparatory work to do prior to the baby’s birth. Adoption can include a range of emotions including joy and relief in choosing the adoptive parents, and grief of signing the surrender paperwork. The PSS worker will support the client through education and counseling including discussions on how to discuss her adoption with others and preparing for the hospital experience. With proper written consent, the PSS worker will notify the hospital of the planned adoption so that the hospital staff will be more sensitive to the client’s needs during her hospital stay. After the birth of the baby, the worker will again discuss the decision to place the child for adoption and ascertain whether or not adoptive placement is still the preferred plan. The worker will also educate the client on openness in adoption, which allows for the possibility of a continued relationship between the adoptive family, the adopted child, and the birth parents after the adoption is finalized. The degree of openness varies and no two adoptions are alike. One aspect of openness involves the client choosing to select the adoptive family by viewing adoptive family profiles and later meeting this family. All prospective adoptive parents at ECFA desire an open adoption, amounts of openness vary from family to family. The birthfamily is the only party that can choose a closed adoption. See Adoptive Couples Profiles.
Duration of Services: PSS services are available throughout the pregnancy and up to six months after delivery. The purpose of this post-delivery time is to help the client transition to and understand the new role of active parent or as a birth parent of an adopted child. The objective during this time is to help the client confront any major hurdles and help prepare her for life after PSS services are discontinued. If, at the close of services, the client still needs added supports and counseling, the PSS worker will provide her with referrals to other services.
Illinois Law provides for the legal abandonment of newborn infants (under 30 days old) by the mother. If you are pregnant and considering abandoning your baby, you can do so without any questions being asked, and in a manner that helps to protect the welfare of the infant. Within seven days after the birth of the baby, you can bring your baby to a staffed fire station, staffed police station, or hospital emergency room. Arrangements will then be made to place the baby with an approved adoptive family. You do have a choice! You may go to the State of Illinois web page and read about it.
All services provided by the Pregnancy Support Services program are provided free of charge. The PSS worker will assist the client in making arrangements for payment of medical expenses through third party services such a Public Aid, if she is eligible. The medical expenses of children placed for adoption are usually the responsibility of the adoptive parents following placement.
The following complaint process applies to all services in the Illinois District – Adoptions, Counseling, Family Preservation Services, and Pregnancy Support Services:
- This complaint procedure will be provided in written form to prospective clients before they sign any agreement to receive services or pay any fees.
- A copy of this policy and procedure will be signed and dated by the client and maintained in ECFA’s client file. Copies will also be given to clients. If the client’s primary language is Spanish, a copy will be provided in Spanish.
- Evangelical Child and Family Agency (ECFA) will initiate an investigation of written complaints within two (2) business days of receiving the written complaint. Clients with special needs who require assistance putting their complaint into writing shall be provided with assistance by an agency staff person or another individual of the client’s choice.
- ECFA will maintain written documentation of all complaints received.
- The complaint investigation will be finalized within ten (10) business days after the complaint is received. The resolution/report shall be sent, in writing by regular mail, to the complaining party. For clients who have any DCFS involvement, a copy will be sent to agency’s DCFS regional licensing office or licensing representative. If extenuating circumstances require additional time for resolution, an interim report shall still be provided to the complaining party and to DCFS (if applicable) at the 10-day point. The interim report shall include the reason for the delay and an estimated completion date of the investigation and response. The interim report to DCFS (if applicable) shall include a copy of the written complaint. A final report shall be provided to the same parties when completed.
- ECFA will not retaliate against complainants in any manner.
- ECFA has designated the following management-level staff person to accept and coordinate the response to complaints: Director of Clinical Services. The phone number is 630-653-6400 and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The written complaint and Agency response will be reviewed by the Agency’s Social Service Committee. The resolution of all complaints, including the copies of complaints and responses, will be reported to the Agency’s Board of Directors at the next meeting following completion of the final report. The reports of complaint resolutions that are made to the committee and Board will be noted in the minutes of the respective meetings. Questions about the above procedure may be directed to the Director of Clinical Services.