Lending a helping hand
Liberty Godparent Home provides housing and counseling for pregnant teens
Sherita Brown started volunteering at the Liberty Godparent Home as a student at Liberty University 10 years ago when teen pregnancy impacted her life personally.
“I got involved with the Godparent Home because my best friend faced an unplanned pregnancy,” Brown said. “I wanted to be involved here to help other women just like her. It wasn’t until recently that she even knew she was the reason I started working here.”
As the director of the home, Brown works to provide around the clock support for young women facing unintended pregnancies, like her close friend once did. The home provides housing for up to six pregnant women under the age of 21 who are in need of physical, emotional and financial support.
The Liberty Godparent Home was founded in 1982 by Dr. Jerry Falwell Sr. to give young pregnant women an alternative option to abortion. The mission of the home is “to save one life while changing another,” according to Brown.
“Dr. Falwell always spoke about abortion, and someone asked, ‘What are you doing about it?’” Brown said. “So he started our ministry.”
Women who stay in the Godparent Home can pursue an adoption plan or a parenting plan. The home provides all the needs of pregnant young women — from maternity clothes and Lamaze classes to parenting classes and life skills training.
“Whether they choose a parenting plan or an adoption plan, we want our girls to be educated in both ways and know what they’re getting into,” Brown said. “Both plans are very difficult plans to make at a young age.”
Within the past three years, Brown said she has seen a trend of young women choosing to parent their own children. As social stigmas regarding teen pregnancy change, the girls are more likely to raise their children instead of giving them up for adoption.
The younger girls around 15 and 16 years old are even more likely to choose a parenting plan, Brown said. She believes that some of these girls see their child as the only one who truly needs them and loves them.
“I think that the baby is someone who can love that girl unconditionally,” Brown said. “If they haven’t seen unconditional love, the first time they see it is when they look into their baby’s eyes.”
J.J. Cole, a sociology professor at Liberty, has spent 32 years of her career involved in social work. Out of those, 16 years have been spent with the Godparent Home at various times.
Cole, who attended Liberty for her undergraduate degree, has been involved with the Godparent Home almost since its beginning. As the director of Family Life Services, she saw infertile couples and pregnant young women meet each other’s needs.
“(One girl) said, ‘Can you tell them thank you (for me)?’” Cole said, telling a story about a young woman who gave her child up for adoption. “I remember that hit me, and it just caught my heart. She was meeting their need, but also they were very much meeting her need.”
When more young women chose to raise their children, the Godparent Home realized that some girls needed support after they gave birth. When young women began losing their children to Child Protective Services, the home started the Mommy & Me program. The program, which houses one young woman and her infant child, has not been vacant since it started in July 2015, Brown said.
“Our goal is to help young ladies as they transition into motherhood,” Brown said. “Now that we have that program, we can walk alongside them and be with them.”
The Godparent Home takes in young women from anywhere in the United States. Brown said that Liberty students provide the greatest word-of-mouth advertisement for the home.
“I think my biggest goal is to make sure our ministry is known about,” Brown said. “We are sometimes the best-kept secret.”
Cole said she believes that the Godparent Home is moving in the right direction. Although she no longer works there, she still volunteers her time to support the home and staff. Serving teenage girls and families trying to adopt is her passion, Cole said.
“I’d go back there in a heartbeat if my life was not so busy,” Cole said.
Brown said she is inspired particularly by the young women who come to the home with no family support at all and are able to raise their children despite their difficult situations.
“In that time of crisis, we were there to show her Christ’s love, Christ’s compassion, and that she can move forward,” Brown said. “What makes me want to come to work every day are those girls who were able to make it despite not having the physical support of family.”
The walls of the Godparent Home are covered in framed maternity photographs of the girls who have stayed there. Brown pointed to a picture of a young woman who is raising her child as a single mother while pursuing a career in nursing.
“There was one girl who was able to make a parenting plan and obtain her CNA.” Brown said. “Now she’s working toward her RN with no family support at all. I know our girls have that drive in them. I want to see them push because I know they can.”
Covey is a feature reporter.