Two years ago, Shirley Russell, 39, of Woodland Hills was jobless, about to be evicted from her apartment and pregnant. She didn't want to have the baby because she figured that if she couldn't take care of herself, she couldn't take care of a baby.
She ended up at the Conejo Valley Crisis Pregnancy Center in Thousand Oaks, a nonprofit organization that helps women and families in difficult situations.
"There is a crisis period when a woman learns that she's experiencing an unplanned pregnancy," administrative director Sally Rosiek said. "Lots of times they are gripped with fear and can't make a wise decision. We help them so they can see clearly what their options are."
"I think they totally believed in me," Russell said. "I came from a totally difficult family life and divorce. They were believing in me, then I started believing in myself."
Russell said the center helped her turn her life around. Her son, Taylor Mayorga, is 17 months old. She has an apartment and a job.
Last year, the center saw more than 300 clients.
"There's a broad range of people who live here and use the clinic," said Sue Rochford, client services director. "We'll get low-income families, teenagers, women in their 20s that are working or in school."
The center offers pregnancy tests, pregnancy and prenatal information, medical help, adoption counseling, abortion information and a wide selection of support groups, all free.
Some girls will visit every week throughout their pregnancy; others will only come in once or twice, depending on their need.
The agency does not refer women to abortion clinics.
Rosiek said that she knows that there is controversy regarding the center's stance on abortion.
The center has a workbook, "Basic Decision Making," that the counselors and the women go through together. The workbook shows the women what life is like once they have made a decision on keeping the baby or adoption.