After caring for many wonderful Coffs Coast kids since the 1990s and putting seven of them through the HSC, Judy Alcock and her husband recently resigned as foster carers to devote more time to helping others through Lilyrose Pregnancy Support. FOCUS met with them and their dedicated team of volunteers to find out more about the service.
What is your connection to the Coffs Coast?
After giving birth to our first child while we travelled around Australia in 1976, we came to Coffs Harbour with the gift of a position for my husband in Pathology at Coffs Harbour Health Campus.
What led you to help start Lilyrose Pregnancy Support?
In 2010, Lilyrose was started by Carolyn Etheridge, who saw the gap in support and information for pregnant women and girls anxious and uncertain about the future of their pregnancy.
Two of my daughters-in-law asked me to join this group after I retired from nursing in 2011, and my first role was to teach the Mentoring Course. Then in 2014, the President, Carolyn, who had worked extremely hard developing a Strategic and Operational Plan which would ensure clients received professional and appropriate care, handed the reins to me.
I had discussed our plans for an Antenatal Clinic with my Doctor, Dr. Deirdre Little, a well known Bellingen GP Obstetrician with over 25 years’ experience in Obstetrics, and she enthusiastically volunteered to offer her services one afternoon a week! As a Registered Nurse, it became my job to oversee the preparations, writing the Policies and Procedures, while my wonderful husband did the fitout, and we painted the LifeHouse CareHouse.
So, in August 2015, we started the Antenatal Clinic and ran the arm of Pregnancy Support from the Earl St. CareHouse. Our service aims to give “life-affirming” care to every mother and baby.
Who does this organisation help?
Any pregnant woman can access this amazing service, and every woman is Bulk Billed, including all Pathology and Radiology tests. At each doctor’s consultation, patients can view their baby on our ultrasound monitor, with Dr. Little explaining the foetus’ development to reassure mums.
We provide compassionate support regardless of whether the mum continues her pregnancy, with information provided so she knows all her options. We do not refer for abortions, but we run a Post Abortion Support Group, providing gentle and affirming care to alleviate the grief and other emotions some women experience after a termination.
What services do you provide, and how is Lilyrose run?
We are an antenatal clinic, where women are given all the time they need to have their questions answered and receive the clinical care appropriate to their needs. Meanwhile, the support arm provides services according to an assessment of a woman’s situation. This may mean they receive a bundle of baby goods, assistance with food, transport, emotional support and information for their pregnancy.
Each woman receives an obstetric information pack, which is a thorough treatise on what to expect. Refugees are also provided with an approved interpreter, ensuring all communications are clear.
Patients book into the Pregnancy Care service at Coffs Harbour Health Campus prior to 20 weeks, and first time mums are encouraged to attend the Uniting Care Burnside’s “CHARMED” Course.
Many GPs also refer patients to us, and we invite other agencies and services to come and meet our team. We have greatly benefitted from engagement with various Departments of WARRINA and Family and Community Services. We are here to serve our growing community.
A/Prof Harvey Ward, an Obstetrician and Department Head, endorses and supports our work, and he also donated our magnificent Ultrasound.
Can you tell us more about the team at Lilyrose?
This is the best part, for without the amazing dedication of this team we would not be able to function as we do. Currently we are all volunteers who aim to make pregnancy an enjoyable and satisfying nine months.
Dr. Little has been seeing our patients for over two years now, providing the sort of “old fashioned” listening ear there’s rarely time for today. Deirdre’s experience and knowledge is highly regarded amongst the medical profession – her medical interventions providing great outcomes for mothers and babies.
Ulrieke Kethel looks after women to help them find resolution and peace when grief and loss from a termination are present. Ulrieke and her husband, Ian, also open their beautiful rose garden as a fundraiser for Lilyrose.
Ruth Dooley is our receptionist. She is a calm, efficient volunteer, an expert in fixing the “whatevers” and a great resource for those seeking adoption services. Recently, Ruth spoke passionately at our Adoption Forum about the adoption of their son.
Many will know Margaret Fox, as she and her husband, Reuben, have maintained and sold pianos for over 40 years. Margaret provides much practical help, for both the team and the patients, even running errands of shopping and driving some women home when it’s late for the bus.
My role, as Co-ordinator, Practice Manager and Registered Nurse is to keep the vision and mission alive, to, as our slogan says, “Find a Way for Lives to Blossom”.
Cate McGovern, a Pastor in Bellingen, has recently joined our team, and Kylie Rees searches out the best deals in baby clothes and puts together our practical “Baby Bundles”.
LifeHouse Church have partnered with us to run this great service; even though our team are from many churches, they have generously provided the space and paid our rent!
You recently ran an Adoption Forum to help raise awareness of recent changes to adoption laws. What were these changes, and how have they made adoption a better option for new parents unable to care for a child?
The Adoption Forum provided our audience with an understanding of the new laws relating to adoption. These changes are geared to provide stability and a sense of “who I am” for a child placed for adoption. Now, the birth parents are given the opportunity to stay in contact either through pre-arranged visits, phone calls or emails, including the exchange of photos.
These days an adoption plan is a written agreement about what things will look like after the adoption is formulated, with all stakeholders contributing their desires for the child. Birth parents may, if they wish, have a “say” in the choice of adopting parents.
How can people find out more?
Patients wishing to access our service can book by phoning Judy 0423 227 917, or walk-in on Tuesday afternoons.
You can find out more via www.lilyrose.org.au or Facebook @lilyrosepregnancysupport