In 1982, a group of like-minded women joined together in the hope of realizing an audacious dream: To provide women in Greater Dane County who faced unintended pregnancies with the resources and help they needed to say “yes” to their unborn children. These women, first known as “Verona Friends for Life,” knew it wasn’t enough to be against abortion. They needed to show they were for abundant life—and committed to offering the time, attention and resources that would truly make a difference.
Three years later these women founded the Pregnancy Information Center (PIC) with a small office on Monroe Street. A team of dedicated volunteers ran the office, offering free pregnancy tests, consultations, and referrals to agencies that could provide assistance with health care, parenting education, material resources, counseling and more.
As these compassionate and committed volunteers came to know and better understand the fears, needs and hopes of the young women—and in some cases their partners—who relied on them, they realized it was vital to offer more. They joined forces with a national organization whose beliefs they shared, added additional services and resources and became Care Net Pregnancy Center of Dane County, Inc.
Changing needs…constant values
Over the years, Care Net has expanded our service offerings multiple times in response to the needs of our community. Today these services, which are offered free of charge, include the following:
We began to offer medical services in 1998 and Care Net currently has its own nursing staff, as well as volunteer nurses and experienced medical practitioners who provide pregnancy testing, options consultations, ultrasounds, and STI testing and treatment under the direction of a Medical Director.
In 2018, our medical clinic received accreditation by the AAAHC – the Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. The rigorous certification process we underwent to achieve this accreditation affirms we meet the highest standards of health care as determined by a third-party, peer-reviewed evaluation.
When a young woman faces an unintended pregnancy, access to safe housing can truly be life saving. Care Net has made housing a priority for many years—first at a farmhouse in rural Stoughton and later when we opened the Elizabeth House, our residential program, at our east side headquarters in 2005. The Madison area community came together in an unprecedented way to build and furnish Care Net’s facility, which also houses our offices, medical clinic and educational services.
In 2014, we moved beyond pregnancy-related housing with the construction of Eagle Harbor Apartments. Thanks to a generous donation of land adjacent to the Care Net headquarters, as well as tax credit financing and the collaborative efforts of many in the community, Eagle Harbor Apartments now provides a modern and affordable home for 36 families—families that can include graduates of The Elizabeth House.
One of the exciting elements of the Eagle Harbor Apartment building is the Lighthouse Kids day care, which opened in March 2015. Lighthouse Kids, a five-star childcare center run by Lighthouse Christian School, offers a bilingual education (English/Spanish) to meet the needs of families and helps fill yet another community gap: affordable childcare. Lighthouse Kids provides a convenient and affordable childcare option for families of Eagle Harbor Apartments, mothers at The Elizabeth House, and other families on Madison’s east side.
Education and support services
Parenting can be a scary and overwhelming experience. To help parents-to-be prepare for this role, we offer childbirth education, Best Beginnings—our infant care program that covers 90+ topics—and classes for parenting toddlers and beyond.
Parents who attend the Best Beginnings classes are paired with a clinic nurse or parenting advocate and can choose the classes that are the best fit for them. And to help parents prepare for their baby’s physical needs, they can earn education credits from these classes to “purchase” a wide variety of baby items.
Men’s outreach program
Over the many years Care Net has worked to help young women in need, we came to see there was another group that also needed our help: the father of their baby. Not surprisingly, these men can have a huge impact on the choices these young women make regarding their pregnancy, which is why it’s absolutely vital to offer them support and a listening ear. Many of these young men are just as scared and overwhelmed as the mothers. And many haven’t had a positive role model to help them understand the importance of fatherhood—and that they could be successful in this role.
Lack of transportation can be a huge barrier to care. To help every young woman who needs our services access them, we launched the First Care Mobile Clinic in 2019. Our 40-foot dedicated medical clinic brings our medical and educational services to underserved communities in Greater Dane County, and removes yet another barrier to accessing pregnancy help services.
Our programs continue to grow and evolve as we work to provide life-affirming resources that meet the changing needs of our community. Today, Care Net may look quite a bit different than it did during our early years. But one thing will never change: Our commitment to the women, men and babies who need us most.