Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre prepares for move, while continuing to serve women and families

Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre director Cathy LaFleche and volunteer Sylvia Elchuk: planning for an upcoming move.

By Anne-Marie Hughes, Catholic Saskatoon News

Carpet and flooring samples have recently been on the to-do list for staff at the Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre (SPOC).

Executive Director, Cathy LaFleche and Client Services Coordinator, Tracy Unger are working on building plans and a new fundraising campaign, in between regular parenting education appointments, walk-in pregnancy tests, and crisis pregnancy option appointments.

The big move to 2453 Dudley Street, Saskatoon is scheduled for June 2019.

Find out more about Saskatoon Pregnancy Options Centre:  WEBSITE

“It’s all becoming very real after two years of planning and discussion,” says LaFleche. “We talked about needing a bigger space at our annual gala two years ago and Colin Enns from Key Stone Paving approached me about his vision of including the pregnancy centre in the new building he was constructing for his business. He encouraged us to be in on the design process and make the space our own. What is being built will function well with moms and the busyness of parenting classes on the main floor and on the second floor will be a private, quiet space for people discerning a lifelong decision.”

“When possible, we book options and crisis appointments in the morning and parenting lessons in the afternoon, but crisis doesn’t work on a schedule, so when women walk in, or can only come during the busiest time of the day, we accommodate. It has meant counseling women being affected by crying babies or preschoolers knocking on the wrong door looking for mom. This is less than ideal and this is why the new space is a dream come true,” says Tracy Unger.

Along with planning space also comes the need for added fundraising in the form of a capital campaign.

Some $30,000 has now been raised in a “Steps to Home” Campaign, which has a goal of raising $140,000 to cover some of the costs of outfitting the interior office space.

“Many people in the community can see the work we do and have really stepped up to help,” says LaFleche.

Donations have also been given in response to opposition to pro-life activity by local and federal governments. People walked in and gave the centre money after a recent decision by Saskatoon city council not to fly a pro-life flag. There was also added support last summer to pay for summer student wages not granted by the federal government during the summer jobs attestation controversy. It was the first year SPOC was denied funding for a summer student.

“This year’s summer student funding is still looking very uncertain as all pregnancy option centres were asked to submit more information to prove we were not undermining women’s sexual reproductive health,” says LaFleche.

The centre runs with one full time director, two part time positions and the support of 23 volunteers helping in various ways. The summer positions are crucial when staff and volunteers take vacation time, because summer interns take on many duties.

“Our summer interns get great experience here doing one-on-one work with people, receptionist duties, training in answering crisis calls and learning client documentation…  These postings are also the summer support we need to give staff time off without considering closing the centre for a week or two and not being around for people in need.”

Those hired as summer staff are usually interested in moving into work such as counselling or nursing. They are trained to help with the “Earn While You Learn” (EWYL) Program that provides ongoing support for parents during pregnancy and into the toddler years.

EWYL is a big part of what creates community at the centre. Many moms and their partners are coming regularly for years, getting physical support from the centre’s new and used closets and becoming better parents along the way. This ongoing support  is making a difference for those who might otherwise be vulnerable to abortion for the second, third or even fourth child.

“Many people see the abortion risk as being mainly for the first child. The thinking being that since a woman has gone through childbirth once, she is less vulnerable to the pressure of choosing abortion in a second pregnancy. This is often not the case,” explains LaFleche. “Every pregnancy holds its own set of risks: ‘Is it too soon after my first baby? How can I get out the door with three kids when I am overwhelmed with two? My children are 15 and 12, how can I manage a baby again?’ Every new situation means meeting a woman in a new place.”

SPOC’s parenting support programs mean that often clients are already in relationship with the centre. They are having pregnancy tests there and making decisions for the future knowing that support is there and feeling they aren’t alone.

For clients walking in the door, the parent support programs show that the centre is committed to a vision of building a family. In options counseling, clients are given a chance to envision the possibility of parent-ing a child, along with the other options of abortion and adoption. Having the one-on-one parenting and physical resource support (like diapers or formula) shows the centre’s commitment to the long-term vision of parenting with support beyond an initial decision.

LaFleche sees SPOC as moving forward thanks to a lot of community support. “Our donors understand wider support means being pro-life on the ground with each woman, making each decision,” she says.

“Supporters realize that expanding these services puts us in touch with the wider community of helping professionals. Our relationships with Healthy Mother Healthy Baby, addictions counselors, the Saskatoon Tribal Council, Egadz My Home (youth centre), are all strong because they see what support we give to their clients. We are seeing more clients every year and giving as many women as we can a glimpse of hope they can choose to build on.”