Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act
U.S. House Briefing, February 15, 2006 - Susan B. Anthony's Birthday
Remarks of Carol Day
We are grateful to Feminists for Life for serving as a catalyst for change
by moderating the first Pregnancy Resource Forum on Georgetown's campus
in 1997. Their leadership has helped to prompt other campuses and universities
to develop programs and to enhance services to pregnant and parenting
I am here today in support of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Pregnant and Parenting Student Services Act. We have had a Pregnancy Support program at Georgetown University since the 1980's. My remarks today will address the following regarding Georgetown University's Pregnancy Support Services Program: best practices for providing services to support students with pregnancy related concerns; key components for establishing a low cost, easy access response to students anxious about the possibility of pregnancy; ways to optimize marketing pregnancy support services to students; and creative partnerships with student groups and community and university resources.
The Georgetown University Pregnancy Services Program
Georgetown University has a population of students who are typically between the ages of 18-22. We have approximately 6600 undergraduate students and 6600 graduate students.
In 1989 the Georgetown program was affiliated with the Nurturing Network, a program that facilitated transferring pregnant students to other universities to study while the student was pregnant. Pregnancy services were incorporated under my department, Health Education Services, in 1992. A university-wide committee was formed as an Advisory Group. The staffing of the program at that point was done by a part-time staff person.
In 1997 I participated in the first-ever Pregnancy Resource Forum which was moderated by Feminists for Life President Serrin Foster. Georgetown Right to Life hosted the event, and students on both sides of the abortion debate contributed to a blueprint for progress. We added a full-time staff member whose responsibilities included pregnancy services and sexual assault services.
In 1998, in response to student needs and concerns, we increased access by providing an after-hours contact pager and free pregnancy testing kits. We also increased visibility through more marketing of our services, establishing a flyering campaign, and adding stickers about our services in bathrooms.
The services provided by our program include:
- Free self-administered pregnancy testing kits
- Confidential individual counseling
- Liaison to academic deans for academic assistance
- Pregnancy services information line with a recorded message describing the services
- Website with information on Georgetown services and links to information about pregnancy
- Referrals to university services for financial aid, spiritual concerns, psychological counseling, medical care, and housing
- Referrals to local agencies for adoption and off-campus housing
- Childcare referrals
- Infant clothes, toys, and equipment
In 1998, Georgetown University's Board of Trustees set aside endowed housing
for parenting students. Housing needs are provided on-campus in residence
halls until delivery, at which point we feel that the environment in a
residence hall is not conducive to either the mother's, the infant's,
or the other students' health. We have renovated an endowment property,
an off-campus townhouse that used to house four students and now houses
two student mothers and their children. The university offsets the cost
of two students' rent. Renovations to the property several years ago included
Hoya Kids' Learning Center, an on-campus day care facility, opened in 1997.
Over time we have established a program that we feel incorporates best practices. A key component includes delivering a consistent message, which is, “Slow down. This is possible. We will help you.” The essential services that we provide are basic to the success of the program.
We have delineated our target population as all students. While we originally
thought of our population as undergraduate students, we have broadened
our services to include undergraduates, graduates, women, men, international
students, married and non-married students.
Availability and accessibility are very important. An attitude that conveys
warmth, openness, caring, and compassion is critical. Students need to
know that the staff is knowledgeable and concerned about them. Our language
has been inclusive and non-judgmental. We changed the name from Pregnancy
Support Services to Pregnancy Services, which reflects an open door for
We have been user-friendly, providing students with an after-hours pager and a designated phone line which is answered with priority. We have used creative “full-time” staff availability, using several health professionals who have a variety of responsibilities under their job descriptions. This effectively provides full-time services and availability for students. We never know when someone will seek services, and someone needs to be available to meet the need. Although our staff has other responsibilities also, someone is always available to meet the needs of a student who walks in or phones or pages.
Pregnancy testing kits allow us to cast the safety net. The anxiety that the student feels when she is worried about the possibility of being pregnant creates an opportunity for contact. We gather little or no initial identifying information. We provide directions on how to use the kit and a resource sheet is wrapped around each kit. The resource sheet provides the names and contact info for others in the university who can easily be contacted if the student desires. After business hours we provide a locked box with readily available access to pregnancy testing kits.
We prefer to have a conversation with the student if possible and we assume the student doesn't know what she will do. Through conversing with the student, we can address anxieties about the likelihood of pregnancy; promote reflection about decreasing risk behavior; consider other issues such as the possibility of transmission of infection; and increase awareness that there are resource persons on campus that are here to address these as well as other concerns as necessary. In short, we provide the student with help in a crisis and lead the student to university resources that they may tap into on other occasions as needed.
When counseling a student we emphasize slowing down and proceeding one step at a time. We ask about their support system and provide anticipatory guidance regarding a conversation with a male partner and/or parents. We recommend discussions with a psychologist, a campus minister, and others. And we offer ongoing contact with our office to problem solve as things come up.
Liaison to Academic Deans' offices is provided by our office. At the request
of students we contact Deans' offices, which in turn contact the student's
professors to facilitate the timely completion of coursework on a schedule
that is sensitive to each student's needs. Each semester we discuss course
load, progress toward graduation, and confidential time off for medical
needs/recovery. We often work directly with faculty to allow for extenuating
circumstances, e.g., absences, extensions.
We work with Facilities, e.g., providing for a desk sized to fit the pregnant
student. We work with Financial Aid Services to facilitate and repackage
Other considerations that are necessary include facilitating medical care and support, prenatal and parenting classes, health insurance, and adding infant health insurance.
Marketing the Program
It is important to support culture change. There are common misconceptions, e.g., if you are pregnant your parents will be called or the university will dismiss you. There has often been misinformation, some of which is perhaps unique to Georgetown, e.g., the University can't talk with you about any of this.
It is important to influence the social norms and the students' perception is critical.
Students often think that everyone who gets pregnant will have an abortion. Or that no one gets pregnant. Or that you can't be pregnant and stay in school. Some students—especially graduate students—are married when they are surprised by a pregnancy. Others get married after they become pregnant. Some choose single parenthood, and for some adoption is the best choice. By actively supporting on-campus pregnancy and parenting programs and actively marketing such programs, students can see that not only is this possible, it is often chosen as a course of action.
We are constantly aware of the need for educational outreach. Our student
population changes 25% each year. Our New Student Orientation play, Residence
Life training, website, stickers in bathrooms, and print materials are
all major marketing tools. We have identified constituent groups that
are concerned about these issues, and we try to partner with them to increase
our outreach. These include student clubs, the Women's Center, Right to
Life, and the student press. We try to empower student groups to be advocates,
and in some cases to assist with fundraising for the program.
Supporting pregnant and parenting students is a campus-wide effort. The Georgetown University administration has been extremely supportive, from the University President, John J. DeGioia, to the Provost, James O'Donnell, to the Vice President of Student Affairs, Todd Olson.
Key departments include Academic Deans, Financial Aid, Residence Life
and Housing. Key Partners include the Student Health Center, the Counseling
Center, Campus Ministry and Student Affairs.
Faculty are allies, and they are typically quite caring, compassionate, and understanding. We have never worked with a faculty member who was uncooperative or resistant to providing what the student needed.
Academic departments can be quite helpful and supportive of a program. Certainly the
Schools of Nursing, Sociology and Anthropology Departments, Women's Studies,
Psychology, Minority Affairs, and others can be natural allies.
Supporting pregnant and parenting students is a community-wide effort. We network
with area pregnancy centers to assist those students who have limited
insurance and are in need of low-cost care. Some local legal service agencies
can provide help in certain instances. We work with adoption agencies
when necessary. Other social service agencies that we have had cooperative
partnerships with include day care centers, churches, non-governmental
organizations, the American Red Cross, medical clinics and midwifery providers.
We have solicited for donations from local churches and from faculty, staff, and administrators who donate equipment and supplies.
Georgetown Program Experience
Our costs have been both direct and indirect. The salary cost of a FTE health
professional ranges from $40,000-$50,000 annually (not including fringe
benefits). Our “FTE” staff person responsibilities are shared
among three to four health professionals. Our annual operational budget
is approximately $1500-$2000, which includes personalized, individualized
reimbursement for student needs, e.g., limited travel, equipment, etc.
An ideal program would include a part-time certified nurse midwife, nurse,
or social worker who could act as a consultant and/or mentor.
Student assistance with publicity and diaper/formula drives helps to subsidize our costs.
Our students assist us with fundraising for specific items that we need. Our Right to Life chapter sponsors a free student-to-student Babysitter Club. We use community agencies when we can to assist students, and that means that we have to remain knowledgeable about our community resources.
We've learned that every situation is unique. Student moms and dads are a quiet group. In fact, after the first Pregnancy Resource Forum helped to dispel myths about support for parents, we learned that a number of parents were already enrolled at Georgetown. Some who had children in high school had been hiding their children from their traditional nonparenting peers. We need to reach out more to stay connected with them.
Ongoing marketing of services is essential.
We give out about 200 pregnancy testing kits annually. We average approximately 50 calls to the pager every year.
Our outcomes include a 100% graduation rate. We've had approximately 30-50 students successfully graduate after delivering a child, and more parents have been supported through their Georgetown education since 1997.
Our unmet needs include providing on-campus or nearby housing for parents or families and not just mothers and children. If the program grows to the extent that we would like, we would need more designated housing. We could use a designated health professional and a graduate assistant.
We would like to offer more subsidies for on-campus day care, which is expensive. A day care scholarship would be ideal or at least a more sensitive sliding scale. [The sliding scale difference in price between $80,000 annual income and $35,000 annual income is about 10%. Below $35,000 annual family income the price is $907/month for toddlers. Monthly day care for toddlers for a family with an annual income of $80,000 or more is $1,012. Most students can't afford $907/month.].
We have been challenged by storage space to house the infant care equipment that has been donated.
Since the first Forum in 1997, we have held annual Forums as part of an ongoing education initiative. The Forum also allows us to hear from our student population about how the program is being received and it generates ideas for how the program can be improved.
Georgetown University is proud to have served as a model program and done our part to inspire the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Act. We hope that more students and children can benefit by implementing similar programs at other colleges and universities through passage of this legislation.
Back to Elizabeth Cady Stanton Act briefing