Gloria Whitcraft
Catholic Charities
August 11, 2017 // Diocese

Alleviating short-term crises to get at long-term obstacles

Gloria Whitcraft
Catholic Charities

Catholic Charities’ place in the philanthropic community

Editor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles about Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend and its role as the social-service arm of the Catholic Church.

Many Catholic Charities clients come to the organization facing some short-term crisis to meet basic needs such as adequate food, clothing or shelter. The organization refers to this initial intervention as Phase 1 Services (see the Service Pyramid), which typically last less than one year.

However, the real focus of Catholic Charities’ work is why someone comes to us under such circumstances. Those unmet basic needs are often symptomatic of more complex, long-term issues that prevent them from moving ahead in their lives. These secondary interventions are described as Phase 2 Services, which often require years of professional support to address successfully.

Failure to confront long-term issues can have dire social and personal consequences. Consider an area Hispanic mother, who will be referred to as Ana. About six months into her pregnancy, she discovered there was a strong chance her child would be stillborn without proper medical intervention. Ana, who speaks very little English, needed medical translation services so she could ask questions and closely follow the doctor’s advice.

This is why Catholic Charities created the Hispanic Health Advocate program; to serve those within the diocese who need Spanish translation services in vital areas such as health care and education. Ana and her family are one of 119 families served last year. All of them fell within the Indiana Poverty Guidelines of “low income/poor.”

Funded in part by a grant from the St. Joseph Community Health Foundation, HHA is a Phase 2 service, providing long-term support to those lacking proficiency in English. A translator with specialized training in medical and dental terminology accompanies the client to the doctor’s office and interprets the entire conversation between the health care provider and the client.

In 2016, Catholic Charities performed 349 visits and related services for medical, dental or school-related appointments. And the demand is growing. If the current trend continues, the number of clients and visits will double this year. Clients usually learn about the program through word of mouth, while some clinics provide pamphlets containing information about the program.

So many of the vulnerable in local communities are forgotten after the food and clothing are dispensed. It is the Catholic mission to address the long-term issues they face so they can live up to their God-given potential. This is one more way Catholic Charities strengthens families and alleviates poverty.

Ana’s story

Thanks to Catholic Charities’ translation services, Ana discovered she had a high-risk pregnancy and was able to safeguard her unborn son with proper medical care.

Ana (whose name has been changed to maintain privacy) has some difficulty with English. This is especially the case with medical vocabulary. So when she scheduled a doctor’s appointment, another Spanish-speaking friend recommended that she contact the Hispanic Health Advocate at Catholic Charities. Ana was greatly relieved, and requested that our translator accompany her to the appointment.

There she and her husband received joyous news — they would once again be parents.

After this initial visit, the Catholic Charities advocate continued to provide interpreting services at Ana’s scheduled checkups. She also convinced Ana to enroll in a Safe Slumber class at a local hospital, where she was educated in techniques to avoid sudden infant death syndrome.

Everything was going well for Ana until her six-month prenatal visit.

“Sometimes clients face really scary situations,” said HHA Manager Jessica Hanna. “And they might never even know it, without the help of a medical translator.”

Ana was told that the latest ultrasound revealed that her baby’s amniotic fluid was below average and that the baby was measuring small. The doctor said that if the trend continued, the baby would have to be delivered early to minimize the risk of a stillbirth. The doctor also cautioned Ana that if she felt any contractions or noticed little fetal movement, she should go to the hospital immediately.

“I was constantly worried for my baby,” said Ana. “I had so many questions and I just felt scared.”

With their child at only 24 weeks’ gestation, Ana and her husband were very upset to learn of her high-risk pregnancy. They understandably leaned even more on Catholic Charities’ interpreting services for all of Ana’s biweekly ultrasounds and monitoring of the baby’s heart rate.

“Naturally, we encourage clients like Ana to take ENL (English as a New Language) classes,” said Jessica. “But until they become more proficient in the language, we are there for them.”

With consistent monitoring of mom and baby, Ana was able to make it to 38 weeks. It was then that the doctor decided to induce her. She gave birth to a 4-pound, 6-ounce boy and, although he was small for his gestational age, he was delivered without complications and was very healthy and alert.

“I’m so grateful because all my questions were answered by the doctor. I could ask whatever I wanted.” Ana said. “I can’t imagine going through that [pregnancy] alone and not being able to understand what was happening.”

Ana and her family are very thankful for the Hispanic Health Advocacy program. They were also greatly relieved that they were able to express all their concerns, and in the end, have the outcome everyone was praying for.

“I am so happy I had Catholic Charities to help me and my family,” said Ana. “I don’t think these are just services. I think this is the church being the church.”

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