Raising Infertility Awareness: An Interview with Parental Hope

Tell me about Parental Hope. How did it get started, and what is the mission of your organization?

We are in our very first year as a 501(c)3, and our mission is simply to raise awareness about infertility, to alleviate the financial burden of going through infertility treatment, and to help families handle the emotional aspect of going through infertility as well. We are a 100% volunteer organization. We have two founders, Jen and David Bross, and the reason they started Parental Hope is because they went through the infertility journey, and were lucky enough to come out with a set of twins. They wanted to give back to others who did not have financial means or insurance to be able to extend their families through infertility treatments.

What experiences in your own life led you to working with Parental Hope?

My husband and I struggled with infertility for 11 years before we finally, though in vitro fertilization (IVF), were able to conceive and have our son. We went through four rounds of IVF, as well as a failed adoption, before finally having our son Connor, who is now two. I met the founders of Parental Hope through an online support group we were both a part of, and I knew that I wanted to be a part of this organization to help give back to the community.

Infertility is such a difficult topic that touches many people’s lives. What do you see as some of the biggest struggles that families face when dealing with infertility in any form?

There are three major struggles. First, there is the emotional struggle. Maybe you have the house, the marriage, and the career, and you go to take the next step, and are told you might never be able to have a biological child, or have the family that you wanted. That is a huge toll.  

For me, the emotional aspect of infertility was the hardest to handle.  Friends all around me were getting pregnant and having babies easily.  None of my friends had went through infertility and I felt alone.  Our goal is to help create a support system of couples that are on the same journey and to also have the support and success stories of couples like my husband and I that have went through the process and came out with a healthy child.  While the Parental Hope Family Grant alleviates the financial burden, we also want to focus on helping with the emotional side of infertility as well.

The second biggest struggle is the financial struggle. Once you get the kick in the gut emotionally, then you move on to the financial burden if your insurance does not cover it. In the state of Ohio, insurance is not mandated to cover infertility treatment, and most couples do not have any insurance coverage. So you are asking, “How are we going to pay for this?” Because it is not a cheap way to start a family!

Is there an average cost that a family will spend on infertility treatment?

It really depends. Most of the time you start conservatively with IUI’s (intrauterine insemination), which are a couple thousand dollars, depending on what medications you use. Sometimes insurance will cover the medication, because some of it is used for other diagnoses too. IVF is the final, big fertility treatment, and the average, nationally is around $12,000, before medication. The medication can cost another $3,000-$5,000.

Wow, so it is a very big deal for someone to get a cycle of IVF covered financially.

It is. Some companies may offer financing programs, and clinics may offer discounted cycles to couples going into a guarantee program, but all of that has major restrictions around it such as age and health factors. So most of the time, it is out of pocket for people.

Members of Parental Hope with the two 2016 IVF grant recipients.

Members of Parental Hope with the two 2016 IVF grant recipients.

Getting back to some of the obstacles or burdens, what is the third thing you see as a major struggle those facing with infertility must face?

The third struggle is lack of awareness from the general population.  Unless, you have been diagnosed and went through infertility treatments, it is hard to understand the process.  Infertility is still a very taboo topic, and people don’t talk about it as much as they should. So another one of our goals is to get out the success stories, and to tell people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. 1 in 8 couples will experience some form of infertility, and we want them to know, there is a light. 6.9 million women in the US receive some form of infertility treatment in their lifetime, which is roughly 11.9%. These stats are on our website as well.
 

So obviously, that is why you offer the grant to cover a full cycle of IVF, to help to alleviate some of the many burdens couples going through infertility face!

What is your relationship with the Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) in Cincinnati?

We have an exclusive partnership with IRH to be able to give our grants to couples in the greater Cincinnati area for an IVF cycle through their clinic. 

Do you and the IRH offer any sort of education about infertility or support for families going through infertility, and infertility treatment?

We do. We partner with  IRH to be able to provide education and support for families going through infertility and infertility treatment. IRH has wonderful online resources, as well as in-person groups for those who need support. We are also looking to start an infertility group just for dads, because their needs are different. That will probably be something offered directly through Parental Hope.

What is the application process for the grant, and what criteria do families need to meet? How many grants do you hope to give out this year?

We hope to give out at least four grants in 2017, and the application is on our website. There is a form to fill out, and they need to provide medical records of your diagnosis of infertility. They also need to be able to begin an IVF cycle within 6 months if they win the grant. So they have to be at the point where they know they need IVF. They probably have already done an IUI, and maybe even an IVF.

They need to also provide proof of insurance, because part of it is looking at the financial picture. We want to help people who need help financially. They also write a personal essay about themselves as a couple, what parenthood means to them, and why they believe they should receive our grant.

You will have a fundraising event in April, Infertility Awareness Month. Can you tell me about this event and what it will be like? Are there opportunities for community members to get involved beyond simply attending?

We have an amazing event planned for April 29 at the Centennial Barn in Wyoming. This year’s event is called Journey to Parenthood: A Cocktail Expedition to Battle Infertility, and Mollie Watson will be DJ-ing the event. We will have some cocktail and appetizer stations, all designed by Molly Wellman of Wellman’s Brands, from different areas of the world. We will also be raffling off a free cycle of IVF through the IRH.

This year's event poster.

This year's event poster.

We would love for people to attend the event, to meet the doctors, to meet the board, and to learn more about our organization. We have corporate and personal sponsorships, and we will also be auctioning amazing gift baskets that our volunteers are putting together. We are hoping to have around 200-250 people attend this year. We are hoping to start advertising the event in mid-December, and hoping to have most of our corporate sponsors by mid-January to make sure that they get advertised through the event as well.

How do you hope that Parental Hope will grow in the next year? What are some of your longer term goals beyond the next year?

We all got together for one of our board meetings a little while ago, and we realized we are growing much faster than we thought we would. We were able to give away two grants last year, and the support we have received from the community is amazing. We feel like we have only just touched the surface in letting people know who we are and what our mission is. So we are extremely happy with our growth so far! We have grown the board, and we hope to grow our volunteers, so that is a big goal of ours. The biggest goal, though, is to be able to help couples battling infertility. We hope to be able to raise enough funds to at least double the number of grants we can give out in 2017.

For those wanting more information about Parental Hope, where can families and professionals go to learn more?

Our website is parentalhope.org and our Facebook site is Parental Hope. We would love for people to go and read about us, and for people to share and like our posts.

We are also a part of Cincinnati Gives through Cincinnati Magazine this season. Basically Cincinnati Magazine picks several local non-profit organizations in the Cincinnati area, and those organizations are then asked to fundraise through the month of December. At the end of the year, the top three organizations to raise the most funds not only gets those donations raised, but also a large sum donation from Cincinnati Magazine.

Finally, we are on Amazon Smile, where you can pick us as your charity. It doesn’t cost you any money, and Amazon will donate a portion of any purchases you make on Amazon directly to Parental Hope.