Grantor: Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trust
Grantee: St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home
“Human life is inherently valuable and worthy of respect, support and nurturance.” This simple declaration encompasses the philosophy of St. Ann’s Infant and Maternity Home, located just across the Washington, D.C. line in Hyattsville, Maryland. In practice, it means that abused, abandoned, and neglected children as well as young mothers in crisis can look to St. Ann’s for a safe haven.
St. Ann’s has long been a shelter for those with nowhere else to turn. The home was founded by the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul, and was officially incorporated in 1863 by Act of Congress (the home’s director, Sister Josephine Murphy, keeps a framed copy of the acts of incorporation, signed by President Abraham Lincoln, in the conference room).
St. Ann’s started off as a home for “foundlings and infant orphan and half orphan children” and “deserving indigent and unprotected females during their confinement in childbirth.” Today, more than 600 mothers and children find sanctuary and guidance each year at St. Ann’s.
The core of St. Ann’s is a residential program for abused, abandoned, and neglected children up to eight years of age. The babies and infants, many of whom are referred to the home by the D.C. government, are often drug-addicted or suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome. Many are HIV-positive, have been sexually abused, or have been diagnosed with “failure to thrive.” They arrive at St. Ann’s, according to Sister Josephine, “hungry, ill-kept, sick, wary, traumatized, and frightened.” At St. Ann’s they find a regular schedule, educational opportunities, and therapy in a nurturing, loving environment.
St. Ann’s also runs two maternity programs, including a residential care program for pregnant teens. The girls typically stay for six months and learn how to care for their children. A second program enables young mothers to stay at St. Ann’s with their babies while they finish school and prepare themselves for the future. But St. Ann’s is more than a place to live for a few months. The home helps equip the girls to care for themselves and their children for when the time comes to leave. In the meantime, the girls have to work, pay rent, and act responsibly. In return, they are offered guidance, respect, and love.
The newest addition to St. Ann’s is the Faith House, a transitional housing program for young mothers and their children. Like St. Ann’s other programs for young adults, the Faith House provides help with job placement, daycare, and parenting, but expects responsible behavior and, ultimately, self-sufficiency from its residents.
The home gets 60 percent of its budget in the form of government placement fees, but with 170 full- and part-time staff, and a $5.3 million annual budget, that still leaves a lot of money to raise. One of St. Ann’s most consistent supporters has been the Washington, D.C.-based Alexander and Margaret Stewart Trusts, which have funded nursing care and therapy for children at St. Ann’s.
Two years ago, responding to the home’s critical need for in-house medical services, the Trusts sponsored a pediatric nurse practitioner, as well as part-time services by a child psychologist and a speech pathologist. The services of the nurse practitioner, in particular, have been a real blessing for St. Ann’s, according to Sister Josephine, because the home no longer has to “drag children across town to Children’s Hospital” for routine care and everyday illnesses. In addition, the staff at St. Ann’s often has little information about the children admitted to its care, and having the nurse practitioner on hand makes it easier to develop a baseline assessment of new arrivals.
According to Doris E. Lustine, the Trusts’ executive secretary, “some organizations that you fund, you wonder about,” but “this is one organization where there’s never a question; they do wonderful work.” The results are certainly impressive. Young mothers often arrive at St. Ann’s destitute and friendless. At St. Ann’s, they find a “support system, safety, and serenity,” in one girl’s words. Emboldened by these resources, they have the foundation to go on to make productive lives for themselves and their children.