St. Andre Home, a nonprofit agency founded 75 years ago in Biddeford by the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec, is ending two of its longest-running programs because of state funding cuts.

Since its creation, the agency has focused on providing assistance to families and pregnant women. It will close Starling Place, a Biddeford group home for pregnant women, by the end of the month and its adoption program within three months.

“It was a hard decision to make,” said Reid Scher, executive director of St. Andre Home. “On the one hand there is a great deal of sadness, but it really is a recommitment to providing services. There’s a certain determination and excitement about making that recommitment.”

Scher said the decision to shut down the group home and adoption program are the direct results of cuts in state funding more than two years ago. The agency lost “90 to 95 percent” of its funding when the Maine Department of Health and Human Services removed the Infant Mental Health Program from MaineCare benefits, he said. He couldn’t say specifically how much money the agency lost, but said the cut made it impossible to continue funding all of its programs. Since that cut, St. Andre Home has closed three other group homes.

Officials with DHHS didn’t respond to multiple requests for information about the changes in the Infant Mental Health Program or its funding.

St. Andre Home tried to keep Starling Place open, but attempts to fund it through grants and financial support from the Good Shepherd Sisters of Quebec, a religious order of nuns, were unsuccessful, Scher said.

“It was part of the heritage of the agency,” he said. “Ultimately, what became clear is we could not self-fund a service like that.”

The agency will now focus on Hope Rising, a residential treatment program for survivors of human trafficking, and the Center for Parenting and Play, which offers facilitated playtime, counseling and parenting classes. The Center for Parenting and Play is in downtown Biddeford, while Hope Rising operates out of an undisclosed location.

Scher said the closure of the two programs will mean some layoffs, but the exact number has not been determined.

Vicky Edgerly, heath and welfare director for Biddeford, was shocked and saddened by the announcement the Starling Place will close and adoption services will end. There are no similar programs in the area, she said.

“St. Andre has been an institution in this community since the 1940s,” Edgerly said. “It has provided a lot of help and a lot of joy to people in this community. It’s sad to see this come to an end.”

Edgerly is concerned that the loss of the residential program will put more young women at risk because it may be harder to find them assistance.

“When they don’t have safe housing, they tend to couch-surf or stay with people they don’t know very well. Those things worry me,” she said. “A lot of the women who are pregnant and out on their own are young. They haven’t been taught parenting skills and how to protect themselves in life.”

Though there is much sadness about ending the two programs, Scher said there also is excitement in the agency about focusing on other programs that fulfill the agency’s mission to serve women and children. The programs that will remain in operation are the ones that serve the most people, he said.

Currently, there is one resident at Starling Place who recently had a child. The group home served up to five women at a time. The Center for Parenting and Play, by comparison, has about 45 clients receiving case management, and clinical and play therapy services. Another dozen or so people attend parenting classes.

“In reality, we can serve more people in a community environment than in a resident treatment setting,” Scher said.

 


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