News archive 2005

Address of Ms Sharon Foley, Director, Crisis Pregnancy Agency to CURA Annual Conference in Waterford

PRESS RELEASE

25 FEBRUARY 2005

ADDRESS OF MS SHARON FOLEY, DIRECTOR CRISIS PREGNANCY AGENCY

TO CURA ANNUAL CONFERENCE IN WATERFORD

Embargoed until 11.00am on Saturday 26th February 2005

The CURA Annual Conference is taking place in the Tower Hotel, Waterford this
weekend. Ms Sharon Foley, Director of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency (CPA) was
the keynote speaker at the Conference earlier today.
 
In her address Ms Foley said: “One of the key tasks for the CPA is to lead
research that will help to identify the needs of women and the gaps in support
that exist at present. These findings will, in turn, feed into the development
of effective policy.
 
“In starting to address these complex and challenging mandates, we were
particularly interested in crisis pregnancy counselling a key support for
women facing a crisis pregnancy.   As voluntary counsellors in Cura, many
of you will be aware that crisis pregnancy counselling plays an important
role in assisting the decision-making process so that the woman has ‘time
and space’ to make an informed choice.”

Ms Foley went on to say: “As you may be aware many women faced with a crisis
pregnancy do not avail of counselling – overall one third of all women. It is
imperative that we examine and understand the reasons behind this.   We also
need to understand –

* the viewpoint of agencies, such as Cura, who provide counselling
* the nature and extend of crisis pregnancy counselling nationwide
* the attitudes of women generally towards counselling and
* the experiences of those who have gone through the process

A number of pieces of research have been commissioned by the Agency to investigate
these and other questions. Many of the research reports will be of interest to
you they can be viewed on our web site www.crisispregnancy.ie.  This morning I
will focus on three in particular.

* The Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy (ICCP) Study
* A Study of Crisis Pregnancy Counselling in Ireland
* Mixed Method Research of Crisis Pregnancy Counselling and Support services

“The first study, published last autumn, was a nationally representative survey
of over 3,000 adult men and women in Ireland.  This research gave us a picture of
the extent of crisis pregnancy in Ireland. We now know that overall 12% of all
pregnancies experienced by adults, over their lifetime, were crisis pregnancies –
that’s one in eight.  Crisis pregnancy is certainly a very real issue for many
people.

“In relation to Irish people’s experience of crisis pregnancy, of all those who
reported ever being pregnant 29% of women, and 23% of men reported that they had
had a crisis pregnancy. 13% of people had experienced more than one crisis pregnancy.

“A clear and emerging challenge facing all the agencies are the needs of the new
communities, all of whom have different legal status.  All new communities need to
know they will receive support from the crisis pregnancy counselling agencies.  
Together with Treoir, we have translated and further developed the positive option
materials into 5 different languages which will shortly be available in CD and
written format for counsellors.”, she said.

Ms Foley concluded here address by saying: “Finally, the one challenge which provides
clear markers for the future is the need to respond to the needs of women way beyond
their initial ‘crisis’ and decision making – it has emerged as a strong feature in
the research – to me this is both the new horizon and the new challenge for the future.

“If you look inward to the resources of CURA you will see plenty to draw upon – the
very fact that CURA is a volunteer agency means it can respond to needs in a fashion
unlimited by financial restrictions or the usual time restrictions that operate in
employee based organisations. All over the world the changing nature of western
society has meant that volunteer agencies are finding it difficult to recruit
volunteers yet the recent recruitment drive for Cura yielded a great response –
so well done.   Each volunteer comes from her experience of the local community
and an intimate knowledge of the supports available in the community.  I have no
doubt that each and every one of you has drawn upon this network at time to find
other supports for women in need.  

“The experience of the counsellors within Cura is a tremendous resource – there is
huge potential for opportunities for more experienced counsellors to mentor and
advise the new counsellors.”

Further information:
Martin Long Director of Communications (086 172 7678)
Brenda Drumm Communications Officer (087 233 7797)
Ms Louise Graham National Co-ordinator CURA (087 2439340)
Noreen Keane PRO CURA (087 2701088)
Charlotte Keery PRO CURA (086 2368380)
                                          
NOTES TO EDITORS:
* The complete text of Sharon Foley’s address follows.
* The 28th CURA Annual Conference opened on Friday 25th February and finishes
on Sunday 27th February.
* Speakers at the Conference included: The President of CURA, Most Rev John Fleming,
Bishop of Killala, Most Rev William Lee, Bishop of Waterford and Lismore, Dr Joan Power,
Director, Blood Transfusion Service, Munster Area.
* CURA (Latin for ‘care’) was established by the Irish Bishops’ Conference in 1977
to provide a caring and compassionate service to women who felt unable to cope with
an unexpected pregnancy.
* CURA provides a range of services supporting women faced with a crisis pregnancy,
including Crisis Pregnancy Counselling, Pregnancy Testing, Information and Support
and Post Abortion Counselling.
* During 2004 CURA received 9,758 phone calls and 3,782 personal callers visited its
16 centres throughout Ireland.
* The CURA Helpline is: 1850 622 626 (Open from 9.30am-9.00pm Mon-Fri and 10.00am –
5.00pm on Saturday)

——————————————————————————–

Address by Sharon Foley, Director, Crisis Pregnancy Agency
on the occasion of the Cura National Conference on Saturday February 26th, 2005
at the Tower Hotel, Waterford.

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. As Director of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency I
am delighted to have this opportunity to speak to you about the work of our Agency
and to share with you some of our recent research in relation to crisis pregnancy
counselling.

The Crisis Pregnancy Agency was established in 2001 to assist and improve the
reality for women experiencing crisis pregnancy in Ireland.  The Agency was
established to build on the good work of those already supporting women such
as CURA.

Many of you will be aware of our three mandates-
(a) A reduction in the number of crisis pregnancies by the provision of education,
advice and contraceptive services
(b) A reduction in the number of women with crisis pregnancy who opt for abortion
by offering services and supports which make other options more attractive
(c) Counselling and medical services after crisis pregnancy
 
One of the key tasks for the CPA is to lead research that will help to identify
the needs of women and the gaps in support that exist at present. These findings
will, in turn, feed into the development of effective policy.

In starting to address these complex and challenging mandates, we were particularly
interested in crisis pregnancy counselling a key support for women facing a crisis
pregnancy.   As voluntary counsellors in Cura, many of you will be aware that crisis
pregnancy counselling plays an important role in assisting the decision-making
process so that the woman has ‘time and space’ to make an informed choice.

As you may be aware many women faced with a crisis pregnancy do not avail of
counselling – overall one third of all women. It is imperative that we examine
and understand the reasons behind this.   We also need to understand –

* the viewpoint of agencies, such as Cura, who provide counselling
* the nature and extend of crisis pregnancy counselling nationwide
* the attitudes of women generally towards counselling and
* the experiences of those who have gone through the process

A number of pieces of research have been commissioned by the Agency to investigate
these and other questions. Many of the research reports will be of interest to you
they can be viewed on our web site www.crisispregnancy.ie.  This morning I will
focus on three in particular.

* The Irish Contraception and Crisis Pregnancy (ICCP) Study
* A Study of Crisis Pregnancy Counselling in Ireland
* Mixed Method Research of Crisis Pregnancy Counselling and Support services
 

The first study, published last autumn, was a nationally representative survey of
over 3,000 adult men and women in Ireland.  This research gave us a picture of
the extent of crisis pregnancy in Ireland.

We now know that overall 12% of all pregnancies experienced by adults, over their
lifetime, were crisis pregnancies – that’s one in eight.  Crisis pregnancy is
certainly a very real issue for many people.

In relation to Irish people’s experience of crisis pregnancy, of all those who
reported ever being pregnant 29% of women, and 23% of men reported that they
had had a crisis pregnancy. 13% of people had experienced more than one crisis
pregnancy.

Broken down by age range:
* 55% of 18-25 year olds (n = 47) who had ever been pregnant had experienced a
crisis pregnancy. 4 of these people had more than one.
* 31% of 26-35 year olds (n = 174) who had ever been pregnant had a crisis
pregnancy. 23 people had more than one.
* 18% of 36-45 year olds (n = 162) who had ever been pregnant had a crisis
pregnancy.
 
These findings indicated that, even though there are comparatively fewer pregnancies
among 18 – 25 year olds, more of them will be reported as a crisis pregnancy.  Of
the women who experienced a crisis pregnancy in Ireland (n = 245), for their most
recent crisis pregnancy

* 75% gave birth,
* 15% had an abortion,
* 6% had a miscarriage,
* 1% a stillbirth and
* 3% were currently pregnant

In relation to attitudes towards the different outcomes of crisis pregnancy, adoption
was considered the least acceptable. Influences such as a change in societal attitudes,
ability to cope emotionally and financially have been identified as factors behind this
finding.

The next piece of research examined the perspectives of those service providers who
offer crisis pregnancy counselling. I would like to take this opportunity to formally
thank CURA for their involvement in this study.  

This research set out to:
* Explore and describe current practice in crisis pregnancy counselling and identifying
‘gaps’ or areas that require improvement and development
* Provide information that will allow for the identification of standards in relation
to crisis pregnancy counselling.
 
The research had clear findings which can be summarised as follows;
* The nature, level and quality of information provided varied considerably from
agency to agency
* Access and equality of access to counselling services was uneven.
* There was no difference between agencies in the way counsellors conducted counselling
sessions or the skills used
* Linking with other professionals was underdeveloped
* Service provider guidelines and protocols were not developed
* Concern was expressed by those Counsellors who had seen clients who had negative
experiences of what have been termed as rogue* crisis pregnancy counselling agencies.

***Rogue agencies purport to be a genuine crisis pregnancy agency but in fact use
manipulation and alarmist information to dissuade women not to have an abortion

Recommendations by the researchers centered on six main areas;
* Awareness – supply of information, advertising, innovative
* Access – development of out-of-Dublin services, development of telephone services,
cost to be free to client
* Service Management – clarity of protocols and expectation of counsellors, meeting
the needs of clients who require longer interventions, sharing of expertise
* Standards – on-going training, choice of counsellor, cultural sensitivity, referral
for other health services, documentation of ‘rogue agencies’, accurate and accessible
information, access to up-to-date information on aspects of crisis pregnancy,
development of a single standard for crisis pregnancy counselling
* Training – honouring the ethos of agencies, opportunities to participate in training,
training in core crisis pregnancy counselling skills
* Protocols – internal and external

In summary the recommendations of the researchers were to improve the quantity of
crisis pregnancy counselling across the country by building on the existing services.
This would have the effect of improving quality across all services and ensuring that
women (and men) know what services are provided.

The next study by Dr Catherine Conlon explored crisis pregnancy counselling from the
perspective of the client and so provided a balance to our research.

Dr Catherine Conlon and her team surveyed 400 women who described their pregnancy as
a crisis. 300 in two antenatal centres, 99 in UK abortion clinics and went on to
interview 46 of these women in greater detail (23 from antenatal and 23 from abortion
clinics).  

Dr Conlon found that over half of women attending abortion clinics had attended crisis
pregnancy counselling. However, only one in five women at antenatal clinics had attended
for counselling.  

These results are both positive and negative – it shows that more women attending for
abortion are seeking counselling (in 1998 it was about one third). However, for those
choosing to parent, the availability of counselling does not seem relevant.

Indeed looking at the reasons why women attend counselling; you will see they echo many
of the services provided by the counselling agencies – compassion, opportunity to explore
options, skills.  

What is more telling is the story of those who do not attend. Some women, the research
suggests, have made personal judgments about the actual value of counselling –
particularly crisis pregnancy counselling. For example, the research tells us that
women continuing to parent can tend to view counselling as being relevant only for
those who are choosing abortion.  

Others are simply unclear about what is provided. Access to services in their area or
indeed a fear of being recognised were very real concerns for some.   

Some women feel that they will ‘get a lecture’ in the counselling session or that the
agency will be directive and tell them what to do.  Sadly some women had experience of
a rogue agency – the report give four case studies of these experiences and they make
for very alarming reading.

The report confirm what many of you as counsellors will already recognise as good about
crisis pregnancy counselling. The study also advises on how the services can be improved
– the researchers highlight the characteristics of good practice;
* Emotionally supportive
* Non-directive
* Provide full information/clarity on information provided
* Communicate clearly nature of the service
* Flexible in design
* Wide geographical spread
* Counselling beyond decision making (parenting / adoption)

They also document the challenges to ensuring good practice in their recommendations,
summarised as follows;
* Increase awareness and knowledge
* Communicating clearly the nature of supports
* Optimise opportunities to link women with supports – maximise the ‘initial contact’
* Develop an ‘ethic of care’ which outlines the ‘duty of care’ for women
* Continuum of support to avoid future crisis pregnancies and to provide on going
counselling if needed

Their key recommendation was to develop an ethic of care for use by all crisis pregnancy
counsellors.  

A central theme emerging from the research programme is the need to support motherhood.
All the research studies – either from women currently living a crisis pregnancy or
reflecting on their own experience after the event say that ongoing support and help
would have assisted them – there is a need to provide post-natal counselling to about
one third of women with a third of women wanting ongoing support in the years after.  
Clearly this identifies a need to define what women faced with a crisis pregnancy want
in terms of support in the long run – this may be many years after the actual crisis
pregnancy.

Response of the Crisis Pregnancy Agency to the research findings
The Crisis pregnancy Agency as a priority set out to expand crisis pregnancy counselling
services nationwide – we have managed to expand service by 44% and many of you will be
aware of CURA’s plans to expand within the Dublin region – Blanchardstown and Tallaght –
we are supporting both of these developments.  

Given our understanding of the critical role counselling can play the Agency provides
over €2 million for crisis pregnancy counselling and a further €1.2 million for other
supports for women.

We developed the Positive Options campaign in order to address women’s information needs.
The text messaging aspect of the campaign has dealt with over 100,000 text messages
per year since it was established. It has processed over 30,000 text messages since
the beginning of this year.  

The campaign recently expanded to target older women (those in their late 30s and 40s)
who from our research often didn’t feel the services were relevant to them.  We will e
xpand the Positive Options campaign to build on and further develop information provided
for women within a crisis pregnancy counselling session, for example, by documenting
what supports are available to women in their workplace.

However, the key response of the agency is to develop a specialised manual of good
practice and training module in crisis pregnancy counselling to ensure, in the shortest
possible timeframe, all State-funded crisis pregnancy counsellors are adequately trained.  

CURA’s participation in this development is vital to helping us to achieve this goal
and we thank you for your support to date.  The long term aim of the Crisis Pregnancy
Agency is to assist organisations to up-skill crisis pregnancy counsellors, to standardise
delivery and to promote best practice in the field.  

This manual will define both what we, with the input of all those working in the field
alongside the most relevant research literature available, consider to be the hallmarks
of good crisis pregnancy counselling.  

These include being non-directive, respectful, the imparting of accurate, up-to-date
information in a truthful, objective and unbiased manner, facilitating informed decision
making and finally making appropriate referral where the needs of the client outstrip
the competencies of the client (for example alcohol problems).  

The manual will also define what crisis pregnancy is not – this will clearly define that
manipulation, misleading advertising and directive approaches have no place in crisis
pregnancy counselling.

The manual will outline an ethic of care – this will reflect much of what you as
counsellors do already – in actual fact it is important to remember that the manual
comes from the experience of counsellors and research findings – it will not be a new
invention but rather a collection of the very best of what exists already.

The ethic of care, as envisaged by the CPA, will provide a guarantee to the client as
to what to expect from the various crisis pregnancy counselling agencies. In essence
this summarises the agency’s duty to any client presenting with a crisis pregnancy.

Our vision is to ensure that in selecting a counselling agency women are fully aware
(from accurate and clear advertising and initial contact with the Agency) of what to
expect in terms of counselling, support and follow-on information.  This clarity should
also extend to expectations around the counselling session itself.

If a service is not provided by an agency – for example supported accommodation,
alcohol counselling or indeed information covered under the Information Act relating
to abortion, clients will be told where they can either access the relevant services
or information advertising the services. This could be as straightforward as providing
the Positive Options leaflet.

Moving Forward: New Horizons: New Opportunities
The title from the conference today is New Horizons: New Opportunities.  I hope I
have outlined for you some of the findings of the agency’s recent research around
counselling.  In moving forward from the research I see a number of challenges for
crisis pregnancy counselling agencies such as CURA.  

These challenges include, firstly, internalizing the concept of a standardised ethic
of care for the client.  For many counsellors this will simply reflect their current
practice; for others this may be more challenging.  

The second is rising to the challenge of clarifying for clients the ethos of the
organisation. The Crisis Pregnancy Agency is committed to respecting the ethos of
each agency.

The ‘community’ of crisis pregnancy counselling agencies need to separate, distance
and demarcate themselves in the eyes of the public – but particularly for the benefit
of women – from the actions and activities of rogue agencies. Clarity around advertising
and information and adopting a professional approach can achieve this – but it requires
the commitment of all the agencies.  

There is no doubt that rogue agencies damage women; we are limited in what we can do
to address their actions.  The fact that rogue agencies exist casts a shadow on all
crisis pregnancy agencies, but particularly agencies where information on abortion
services is not provided.  We have to work to ensure the public are aware that they
will receive quality information, respect and a defined level of information from all
the agencies regardless of their ethos – in this way we will win the support and
respect of the public and weaken the potential of rogue agencies to damage women.

A clear and emerging challenge facing all the agencies are the needs of the new
communities, all of whom have different legal status.  All new communities need to
know they will receive support from the crisis pregnancy counselling agencies.  
Together with Treoir, we have translated and further developed the positive option
materials into 5 different languages which will shortly be available in CD and
written format for counsellors.

Finally, the one challenge which provides clear markers for the future is the need
to respond to the needs of women way beyond their initial ‘crisis’ and decision
making – it has emerged as a strong feature in the research – to me this is both
the new horizon and the new challenge for the future.

If you look inward to the resources of CURA you will see plenty to draw upon – the
very fact that CURA is a volunteer agency means it can respond to needs in a fashion
unlimited by financial restrictions or the usual time restrictions that operate in
employee based organisations.  

All over the world the changing nature of western society has meant that volunteer
agencies are finding it difficult to recruit volunteers yet the recent recruitment
drive for Cura yielded a great response – so well done.   Each volunteer comes from
her experience of the local community and an intimate knowledge of the supports
available in the community.  I have no doubt that each and every one of you has
drawn upon this network at time to find other supports for women in need.  

The experience of the counsellors within Cura is a tremendous resource – there is
huge potential for opportunities for more experienced counsellors to mentor and
advise the new counsellors.

Finally I have worked with the ‘management’ (as represented by Bishop Fleming and
Louise Graham) behind the Cura organisation for a number of years and am impressed
by both their belief in the organisation and its goals and their commitment to
supporting you as volunteer counsellors.  

So where next?  

From my reading of the research, there are a number of areas for further growth.

* Reflecting on the research and its meaning for Cura
* Developing further training
* Clarifying the ethos of the agency and services offered to all clients
* Developing further supports for women continuing their pregnancy
– What does this mean for women?
– How can it be offered?
– What are the training needs?

I join you today and leave you with these challenges as my personal contribution –
I leave it to you travel those horizons.

Thank you.
                                                                                                                                                                   
                                                                                    
                                                          

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