Cindy Ragland (2017) first connected with FCWS as a student while fulfilling her internship requirements for TBC’s Christian Counseling degree.
She is now the Director of the north side branch of First Coast Women’s Services, a non-profit organization providing free medical services and evidence-based education on all options regarding unplanned pregnancy.
Cindy says that people who come to FCWS are usually in crisis mode.
Each case must be treated with utmost care and compassion. Unplanned pregnancy is a delicate situation to begin with. As a Christian who believes in the sanctity of human life, being sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading is essential. Cindy says that the first appointment is the most critical one as they present all the program information and options.
“While some may come to the clinic thinking that their only option is abortion, the FCWS team emphasizes that there are two more options available to every parent: adoption and parenting.”
Cindy emphasizes that this difficult conversation must be approached without judgment.
“For them, the pregnancy is a crisis. Whatever started that crisis – whether it was assault, or an abusive situation, or they just weren’t planning on this, we let them know we are listening. Each case has a story. And more often than not, that story is extremely complicated. Otherwise, that individual wouldn’t be approaching the situation as a crisis! And when in crisis mode, it is easy to overlook the facts.”
FCWS also offers ultrasounds done by a nurse on the first visit. Statistically, if the parent hears the heartbeat, they are more open to considering alternatives to abortion.
Many people have a preconceived idea that there is no support beyond the decision to keep or not keep the baby.
But FCWS believes and acts under the conviction that each decision (adoption, abortion, or parenting) requires long-term support for the parent(s).
Cindy says that more than ever before, the overturn of Roe vs. Wade has made it necessary for the Christian community to get involved.
“We need tangible help! I have to constantly remind myself: it isn’t about how I think it should be. It is about how He thinks it should be. How we are responsible to meet people where they are.”
FCWS adoption support includes resources detailing the various ways that adoption can be arranged.
Adoption isn’t a cookie-cutter scenario. There are a variety of ways to arrange for another individual or family to care for a child long-term. Each is a unique process and with varying levels of involvement from the birth parent. The options and requirements are reviewed at length, and volunteers are available to accompany the parent to appointments and help process paperwork.
Parenting programs include a variety of classes and financial aids that empower the birth parent(s) to be successful.
FCWS offers a program called “Earn While You Learn”. This program offers parenting classes on everything from basic infant care through child development information. By attending, parents earn items from the on-site boutique which offers everything from diapers and formula to maternity clothing and baby bedding. Some partnering churches and organizations host baby showers for clients, donate new items, or put together layettes to be made available at the boutique.
“You know, it is about the baby but it’s about more than just that. Often, through the parenting classes we find out there is a deeper issue – forgiveness, hurts, abuses, that have left their mark.”
FCWS does not offer abortion services, but they do offer healing programs to parents who chose abortion.
Cindy says that this is the hardest aspect of her job at FCWS.
“The world in general does not explain to women the mental, emotional, and spiritual aspects of an abortion. This, in turn, leads to more complications. You have women who have breakdowns, who unfortunately can’t come to terms with what they have done and deal with suicidal thoughts. Some go into depression, or develop severe dysfunction in their relationships, and often it can be traced back to their choice.”
“Abortion Healing” is a ministry available to parents who do end up choosing abortion.
“We have to remember that none of this is a surprise to God. He knew about this day. He knew what was coming. We still have to be here for the mother. We have to follow up. He wants her – He created her! …You just never know what can happen or how God can use them (the parents) later on. I am an example of that myself! I would have never thought God would give me the opportunity to be a director of a center like this, given that I have a background concerning abortion. But now I can share my testimony to these young ladies and I’m not speaking from something I read in a book. I know what it’s like to be pressured by a family member and by fear.”
Fear is often the greatest enemy during crisis.
During crisis, it is normal to experience fear and it can be paralyzing. Cindy says that one of the strategies her team uses to help young parents overcome fear is to slow down and see beyond the immediate situation to their life as it could be in the future.
“A lot of times people can’t see past their immediate crisis and that’s normal. Most people just need someone to talk to and help them process. Making this huge decision alone can cause even more chaos.”
FCWS programs are open to the fathers as well.
FCWS offers a men’s ministry, staffed by male volunteers who work with the fathers.
“Women don’t know what it feels like to be a man in this circumstance! Being a teenage father is a huge deal. In one case, a young man was making a decision based upon his fear of perpetuating the abuse that he had endured as a child! Not only did this young man need clarity in his decision, but he needed someone to mentor him through his own childhood trauma.”
It takes dedicated and compassionate volunteers to run FCWS effectively.
Volunteers are the backbone of FCWS and there is always a need for more help! Cindy says that everyone can help in one way or another.
“God can use any and all of it! Hopefully, the end result of all of this is salvation – God is after that person’s soul!”
Cindy emphasizes that listening to and resting in the Holy Spirit is essential to working at FCWS.
“Some days are hard. We don’t now what is going to happen when they walk out the door, but the Holy Spirit is always able to work!”
Learn more about First Coast Women’s Services at https://fcws.org/