Good To Be Home

Good To Be Home

Nonprofit accepts older teens for pregnancy support


Sade Danie imagined being a married woman living in a stable home environment when she became a mother.

It didn’t happen that way.

The 18-year-old Washington County resident is pregnant and can no longer contact the father, who she says she left because his drinking made her uncomfortable.

Danie sought a new place to live where she could take better care of herself and her unborn child, and she found Compassion House, a Christian nonprofit organization based in Springdale that owns a house for pregnant teens. She became the first 18-year-old mother-to-be to live there when she moved in June 27, says Cat Rosenschein, Compassion House executive director.

The Compassion House board changed the organization’s age policy and decided to take in pregnant women ages 18 and 19 a few weeks before Danie arrived. Rosenschein had turned away 11 pregnant women in that age group since January because the original policy only allowed staff to accept teens up to age 17, she says. Turning away women in need because of a nearly three-decade-old policy brought Rosenschein to tears.

“I went home crying,” she says.

Opening the house to this age group closed a gap in services for pregnant women in Northwest Arkansas, nonprofit leaders of maternity support organizations say.

Statewide Trend

Arkansas had the highest teen birth rate in the country in 2016, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s latest data. The center reported 34.6 per 1,000 teens ages 15-19 became mothers in Arkansas that year. The national teen birth rate was 20.3 per 1,000.

Teen birth rates are highest among women ages 18 and 19, according to Arkansas Department of Health reports. The 2018 report showed 64.5 per 1,000 women ages 18 and 19 became mothers in 2016.

Before Compassion House changed its age policy, staff at Loving Choices pregnancy centers had nowhere to send homeless clients ages 18 and 19, Executive Director Dana Schwiethale says.

Compassion House serves as the only free transitional housing facility in Washington County specifically for pregnant teens and young women, says Kristina Andazola, engagement coordinator for 7 Hills Homeless Center. The center’s staff work with clients 18 and older, so the age policy change also will impact their clients in need of maternity support.

Havenwood, a nonprofit organization in Bentonville, manages a transitional housing facility for single moms ages 18 and older, says Regan Eaton, Havenwood director of development. Staff take in pregnant or parenting women who are homeless, subject to domestic violence or living in poverty, but there’s usually a waiting list.

Havenwood houses mothers in one of 15 apartments and enrolls them in a two-year program designed to end a cycle of homelessness, violence or unhealthy lifestyles, Eaton says. Women pay $450 for a studio apartment or $515 for a one-bedroom apartment, and Havenwood staff provide case management services such as parenting classes and other resources paid for through donations.

Compassion House survives on donations from churches, businesses and individuals, Rosenschein says. Teens and young women living in the house get their own bedroom, attend weekly counseling sessions and must continue their education. Staff also teach residents about the Bible, prioritize Christian principles, and provide transportation to church services and other places as needed.

The two-story house holds up to 12 residents, including children, and mothers typically stay throughout their pregnancy and six months after birth, Rosenschein says.

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Sade Danie (right) speaks Friday, June 29, 2018, with Cat Rosenschein (left), executive director of Compassion House in Elm Springs. Danie is the first 18-year-old woman to move into Compassion House, a home for pregnant teens, after a policy change made June 11 allowed them to accept 18- and 19-year-olds.

Community Connection

Rosenschein thinks most pregnant teens are unaware of the resources available to them. Most referrals to Compassion House come from school counselors, churches or family members. Danie contacted Compassion House after a mentor recommended the organization, she says.

“You kind of have to reach out in order for somebody to grab you,” Danie says. “If you don’t reach out, then you’re going to drown.”

Compassion House also receives referrals from organizations such as the Teen Action and Support Center, a nonprofit group based in Rogers sponsoring programs for teens up to age 20. Center staff often work with school counselors to find teens who are pregnant, parenting or in need of housing, says Jennifer Krein, the director of resources and education.

The group’s First Steps program for pregnant or parenting teens requires an online registration, case management meeting and goal setting, Krein says. As parents progress toward their goals, which they may adjust at any time, they receive diapers, wipes and formula as a reward. Staff also help connect parents to outside resources.

Center staff often encounter pregnant teens who have aged out of foster care or their parents will not help them once they reach 18, Krein says. Before Compassion House changed its age policy, staff referred pregnant women to independent living options or places with less support for young mothers.

“At 18 and 19 years old, they might not be able to go through that living in a one-bedroom apartment completely reliant on themselves,” Krein says. “They may not have the skills or family exposure that they get from Compassion House.”

NWA Democrat-Gazette/ANDY SHUPE
Sade Danie (left) and intern Jess Perry prepare to paint canvases Friday, June 29, 2018, as a thank you for donor at Compassion House in Elm Springs. Danie is the first 18-year-old woman to move into Compassion House, a home for pregnant teens, after a policy change made June 11 allowed them to accept 18- and 19-year-olds.

Home Environment

Danie felt “weirdly excited” about her pregnancy when she moved into Compassion House, she says. The welcoming environment made her feel comfortable and less worried about her situation, enabling her to look forward to motherhood.

“I really just want to know what color his eyes will be,” she says.

The supportive family atmosphere of Compassion House attracted Danie, she says. Her childhood and high school years consisted of constantly adjusting to new home environments as she navigated the foster care system.

“I don’t associate with them because I find myself taking care of them more than I take care of myself,” Danie says of her biological family.

Living at Compassion House allows Danie to focus on caring for herself, she says. Compassion House staff prepare residents for motherhood by teaching them how to parent or assist with adoption by partnering with a local agency, Rosenschein says. Staff act as mothers who teach the residents what they need to know during pregnancy and after birth.

Most of the clients come from backgrounds not conducive to becoming good parents, and that’s going to continue a cycle of abuse, drugs or a lack of education, Rosenschein says.

Danie dropped out of school after completing the eighth grade but has goals to earn a GED diploma, enroll in college as a math major and eventually get a master’s degree in social work, she says.

“My primary goal is to finish school and make enough to support a family,” she says.

Danie is due in late August and plans to name her son Ezra. She has a boyfriend who she expects will help support her during the pregnancy and after birth, and she’s optimistic her situation will continue to improve, she says.



Where To Find Help

Compassion House

Who: pregnant teen up to age 19 without felony or child endangerment charges

What: furnished housing, food, transportation, counseling, parenting classes or adoption planning, labor coach, education assistance, donations (diapers, wipes, formula, other)

Where: 6045 Elm Spring Road, Springdale

Cost: none

Arkansas Department of Health

Who: any pregnant Arkansas resident

What: prenatal and postpartum services and prenatal education and counseling

Where: ADH county health units in Fayetteville and Rogers

Cost: depends on health insurance provider


Who: single mothers 18 and older who are pregnant or parenting up to two children ages 10 or younger

What: furnished apartment, food pantry, clothes closet, parenting classes, financial literacy training, education assistance, group and individual therapy, counseling, life skills training, workforce development skills

Where: 808 N. Main St., Bentonville

Cost: $450-$515 apartment rent

Loving Choices

Who: teens/women less than 20 weeks pregnant

What: ultrasounds, adoption planning, parenting mentor program, abortion reversal pill, abortion counseling and recovery programs, STD/STI and pregnancy testing

Where: 3610 W. Southern Hills Blvd., Rogers and 275 S. Duncan Ave., Fayetteville

Cost: none

Choices Pregnancy Center

Who: any pregnant teen/woman

What: pregnancy tests, abortion reversal pill, counseling, educational parenting programs, limited ultrasounds, limited STI testing

Where: 608 S. Hico St., Siloam Springs

Cost: none

TASC/First Steps

Who: teens/women who are pregnant or parenting or fathers ages 13-20

What: case management services, goal-setting program, donations (diapers, wipes, formula, other), referral to other resources

Where: 1207 W. Poplar St., Rogers

Cost: none except for optional counseling services

Source: Staff report

Categories: In The News