By Natalie Townsend
Published in The Williamson County Sun August 17, 2014
For Aly Langsdorf, abortion was not an option. Pregnant at 15 and living with her mother, Ms. Lansdorf’s family’s finances could not support both her and her future son, Jace Corbin. With limited options, the search for maternity homes began.
The pursuit would take Ms. Langsdorf and her son all the way from Florida to Georgetown–the location of Annunciation Maternity Home.
“I didn’t know what to expect, but when I got here, everyone was just so loving and open. I felt really supported,” Ms. Langsdorf said.
“I didn’t have a lot of support at home. Everybody wanted me to get an abortion, and everyone was telling me I couldn’t do it. Coming to Annunciation Maternity Home just showed me that I could do it and provide the kind of future that I want for me and my baby,” Ms. Langsdorf added. “When I got here, they gave me strength and encouragement. They said, ‘you are going to be a great mom, and you are going to beat the statistics.’ It really means a lot to me.”
Home for those in need
Annunciation Maternity Home is the only licensed maternity home for young women in Central Texas, serving ages 12 and up. Pregnant women or those who have recently given birth are housed at Annunciation for free and supported for two years after the birth. During this period, clients can take advantage of education opportunities, a development center, life skills classes, parenting classes and counseling services.
Nine women currently stay in the Gabriel House, a site for adults, while eight reside in the Rita House for teens. Although priority is given to Williamson County, the application process is first-come, first-served, with the context of applicants’ backgrounds and situations in mind. Each applicant seeking shelter at Annunciation has a unique background for the maternity home to consider–many have experienced homelessness, some are teenagers alienated from their parents, while others may have been in foster care, according to Alyssia Woods, development director at Annunciation.
“A lot of the girls here have experienced some difficult times, so it’s not just about giving them childcare education and housing–it’s about helping the whole person,” Ms. Woods said.
Ms. Woods said this strategy is helping women to break the cycle of poverty and inter-generational pregnancy.
“It’s a really good, positive culture,” she said. “You can really see the difference in each mother and child. We are a two-generation program, so we aren’t just helping one mom–we’re helping the family get the best possible start.”
Nurturing a fresh start
One aspect that nurtures a fresh start is Annunciation’s counseling program. Many clients that enter the maternity home carry emotional baggage that makes progress difficult. Counseling enables them to lighten their load and move forward.
At the maternity home’s Seeds of Strength presentation, Ms. Woods spoke of one such woman. About three years ago, the woman entered Annunciation after the death of her mother. Lacking a relationship with her father, she was confused, angry and unsure of her future.
“It took awhile to get her stabilized and for her to see that this was a safe place where she has opportunities and resources she wouldn’t have otherwise,” Ms. Woods said.
The woman participated in the counseling program in conjunction with other services, and graduated early a year and a half later. In May, she finished a cosmetology program and is now accumulating college credits at Austin Community College.
Seeds of Strength Helps
The story resonated with Seeds of Strength, which offered Annunciation $15,000 to pay its full-time counselor in addition to revamping and improving the counseling program. This year’s donation is an increase from the $10,000 Seeds of Strength awarded Annunciation in 2011 for the maternity home’s security system.
Since the organization was founded in 2001, by husband and wife Michael and Christie Aaronson, the maternity home’s continual efforts for improvement have transformed Annunciation from a three-client, individually-funded enterprise to a flourishing, at-capacity maternity home.
In April of this year, the organization was awarded accreditation by the Council on Accreditation in New York, making it the only nationally-accredited maternity home in the state.
Annunciation Maternity Home maintains about 18 full-time staff members. Community volunteers at Annunciation devote about 18,000 hours annually, working in the infant development office, the general office, garage sales and fund raisers. As all of the services provided by Annunciation are free, fundraising, grants and donations are essential to its perpetuity.
“Seeds of Strength is really helping our program grow so much,” Ms. Woods said. “When you think of the mental health needs of people who have experienced really difficult situation, and how difficult it is to overcome those situations to achieve long term goals–counseling is such an essential piece.”
“Being able to receive that money from Seeds of Strength, to have that person in place on the campus, and to hear the stories of how these girls have been able to get a little bit better every day, it’s just wonderful,” Ms. Woods added. “Seeds of Strength does wonderful things for our community.”
Hope for the future
When Ms. Langsdorf speaks about her future, bouncing three-month-old Jace on her knee, her face glows. Although she entered the maternity home with no college credits, the 16-year-old now has 11, and is graduating from Annunciation at the end of May. Immediately after, Ms. Langsdorf will start college. She hopes to one day be a kindergarten teacher and eventually a counselor for teens.
“Once you’ve been here for awhile, Annunciation Maternity Home becomes your family,” Ms. Langsdorf said. “It’s amazing–when I leave her, I can’t imagine what I’ll do without all of these people. They just become your family away from your family.”