The services described above are provided — in one way or another — by most of the homes in this study. Besides these common program features, some maternity group homes provide additional support services. These include mental health and educational assistance to current residents, follow-up services to former residents, and outreach to the fathers of residents’ children.
Mental Health. Some maternity group homes offer mental health services to their residents. A few homes have contracted with psychiatrists to provide therapy for residents; others have licensed therapists or masters-level social workers on staff. The homes we visited in Georgia and Maine tend to place the greatest emphasis on providing mental health services to their residents. Residents of the St. Andre homes in Maine are required to meet with their home’s social worker for at least an hour each week. The social workers at the St. Andre homes also assess the need for mental health services among new residents, and the homes contract with psychiatrists to make house calls for individual appointments. The homes in the Georgia network also make individual therapy available to residents on a weekly or biweekly basis. Some Georgia homes have licensed therapists on staff or use staff of their parent organization, while others contract with a therapist to provide these services, which are paid for out of the group home budget. In Michigan, an organization that formerly operated a maternity group home now provides mental health services — including clinical therapy, infant mental health, and psychological evaluations — to the remaining homes in the network. One home in New York has a clinical psychologist on staff half-time, but staff there noted that many residents were reluctant to see the psychologist.
Residents of other homes are referred to external providers for mental health services. For example, none of the homes in the New Mexico network have staff members trained to provide mental health counseling. Residents of maternity homes in the Massachusetts network are referred to therapists covered by Medicaid. However, staff in some sites noted that mental health services — while important and greatly needed by residents — are expensive and not always available to low-income families outside the homes.
Education Assistance. A few homes provide some type of direct assistance with residents’ education. One large home in New York offers GED classes in a large classroom on-site for residents who are unable to enroll in regular schools in the area. It is somewhat more common for homes to offer tutoring services to their residents, sometimes provided by home staff and sometimes by partners. In one home in New Mexico, for example, tutoring is available to residents seven days a week, and tutoring abilities and subject area coverage are considered when hiring staff. One Michigan home contracts with an external social service organization to provide on-site tutoring to residents twice a week. Some homes in Georgia’s network offer a fixed guided study period on weeknights and will check residents’ homework, and one Georgia home has a special education teacher provide weekly tutoring services on site. Some homes also have computers that residents can use for their schoolwork.
More common than these forms of direct assistance are educational requirements for maternity group home residents. Many homes require residents to actively pursue formal education while residing in the group home. These requirements may be for full-time or part-time activity, and educational requirements can typically be satisfied in a variety of ways, including attending regular or alternative high schools, GED programs, and community colleges. In some cases, the goal of such requirements is to encourage residents to complete high school, while in others it is simply to engage in some type of productive activity. Some homes allow residents — particularly those who have graduated from high school or earned their GED — to pursue employment rather than attending school.6 However, other homes even require continued education of those who have completed high school.
Follow-Up Services. Many maternity group homes provide some type of follow-up or “aftercare” services to young mothers for some period of time after they leave the residence. Most often these services consist of ongoing case management for about six months after their departure, typically provided by the same staff who did so during their time in the home. Some homes attempt to contact former residents at specific intervals (such as at six months, and then one year, after their departure) to check on them.
A few homes offer some material assistance for young mothers now living on their own. For example, one home in Michigan pays the security deposit and first month’s rent for residents after they leave the home, in addition to helping with grocery shopping and checking in periodically for six months. Some maternity homes in Washington have relationships with a partner organization that provides free furniture and household items for former residents setting up their own households, and one Washington home presents its residents with $1,000 upon completion of the maternity group home program.
Services for Fathers. Some homes provide support services to family members of current residents, particularly the fathers of their residents’ babies. The Massachusetts’ statewide network has a father outreach program that not only encourages fathers to participate in their children’s lives, but assists the fathers in finding employment and other services. Each home in the network has a designated father outreach worker (paid through a special federal grant from ASPE that has recently ended) to contact fathers and provide case management services to them. One maternity group home in New York also offers case management and other services to fathers.