Q&A with Dawn Baker, LMSW
January 13, 2020
“It’s been the passion of my life to come alongside women who are coming from difficult places and making difficult decisions,” says Dawn Baker, Bethany’s pregnancy counseling and adoption service line director in Michigan. With more than 30 years in this field, she says many of us have an inaccurate picture of who benefits from pregnancy counseling services.
Who are the women you’re helping today?
Many people assume we’re working with “the teenager next door” who had an unexpected pregnancy. I see a wide range of expectant mothers. My youngest was 11, and my oldest so far was 49. And I’ve seen everything in between—middle schoolers, high schoolers, college women, and women who are married and have children. But the majority are women in their mid-twenties who are in a crisis situation—relationally, spiritually, emotionally, or physically. Many are already parenting other children.
Our approach at Bethany is to meet each woman wherever she is, come alongside her, and try to help meet her needs.
Can you give an example of a client you’ve helped?
I met a young woman who was in college, earning a degree, and who found herself in an abusive relationship. That relationship introduced her to drugs, including cocaine, which she used during the first seven months of her pregnancy. She decided she wasn’t in a position to parent her child, and she was afraid no one would want to adopt the child because of her substance use.
I met her in her eighth month of pregnancy and began walking through that journey with her. We identified an adoptive family who was thrilled to welcome her child into their home. Remarkably, the child spent only a couple of days in the hospital and is now doing well in that family. Bethany was able to connect with this young woman during a very chaotic time and bring her some peace of mind.
Because she made an open adoption plan, she has an ongoing relationship with the adoptive family and can see her child face to face. She can see the dream she envisioned for her child lived out, and that’s a beautiful thing.
Does Bethany also help expectant mothers with their needs?
The first thing we want to communicate to the mother is that she’s not alone. People have a lot of opinions about what a woman should do when she faces an unplanned pregnancy, but they’re not there to help make it possible for her to carry her pregnancy to term. James 2:16 (ESV) asks, “If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?”
For example, when a pregnant woman comes to us who is homeless, her paramount thoughts are, I don’t have a place to live. I don’t have anything to eat tonight. I don’t have warm clothing. So we need to work on meeting those needs first. And we partner with community agencies to do that.
We also partner with local churches through Safe Families for Children. This nationwide ministry helps parents in crisis by finding families to care for their children. An expectant mom might use Safe Families to temporarily care for her kids while she gets the help she needs (housing, medical care, employment, etc.) with a caring support network behind her.
Is pregnancy counseling only for women who want to give their baby up for adoption?
No. When someone calls, texts, or contacts us through our website, we respond. Sometimes it’s women who want to parent their child. We can connect them to community resources, including mother’s ministry groups at local churches. Some Bethany locations have their own programs to help strengthen families and keep them together.
Sometimes we work with women who just found out they’re pregnant, and they’re scared. They’re wondering, How do I tell my parents? How do I tell my boyfriend? How do I work this out? Other women come to us late in their pregnancy or after they have already delivered their babies. They’ll call and say, “I need to make a plan,” so we walk with them through that decision-making process, sharing options about adoptive families and making a plan with the amount of openness she wants. And these services for expectant parents are free of charge.
I’d love for people to understand that adoption isn’t giving up a child. This decision is about making a life plan for their child that’s thoughtful and meaningful. We have a great opportunity to intersect a woman’s life at a critical time, even if it’s just for a brief moment, and make a lasting impact—for both mother and child.
We don’t take that lightly, and we can’t do it alone.
How can people get involved and support this work?
We need people to pray for us. We need people to financially support us. We need volunteers that will give rides and help expectant mothers in a myriad of ways. People can also get connected with their local pregnancy resource center and volunteer there. Sometimes what women need most is for someone to be physically present—as a listener or a friend—and help create solutions for whatever situation she’s in.
Everyone can find a place where they can make a difference.