Sarah DePass: From Teen Mom to Director

Ninth in the Gift of Life Series

Posted by Nancy Lee on April 20, 2023

When a woman with an unplanned pregnancy walks into Care Net Pregnancy Center in Ilion, NY, she is welcomed with compassion and empathy by Sarah DePass, the director, who herself was once a client. “I was a single teen mom. I want to help women the same way I was helped,” Sarah said in a recent interview.

You might wonder how a teen mom in need of services becomes the director of the very center that helped her.  Sarah’s life is an inspiring story of God’s love, forgiveness, and transformation.

Sarah DePass was raised in a Christian home. She attended church every Sunday morning and Wednesday evening and was involved in Sunday school and youth group. “We were a Brady Bunch family, happy and loving,” Sarah said. But at thirteen, her world spiraled out of control when her parents divorced. At that point, Sarah’s three older sisters were grown and living on their own, so she was left to help her mother pick up the pieces.

“I didn’t understand why, after thirty-three years, my parents couldn’t just work it out,” Sarah said. She explained that their broken marriage had to do with them losing their firstborn daughter in a car accident at the age of eight before Sarah was born.

“I was bitter and angry, and I blamed myself. I resented that their decision forced me to change schools which led me to rebel against everything I had been taught.”

Changing schools at the beginning of ninth grade was difficult for Sarah. Without a father figure in the home, she began looking for love and security in relationships with guys, not the nice kind of guys you would want to bring home to meet your mother. During ninth grade, Sarah met a guy who gave Sarah attention and said all the right things. She fell head over heels for him and was caught up in an abusive relationship for the next two years.

“You might wonder why I didn’t just leave him. It isn’t easy. It is all I knew; it is what I thought love was. I finally got the courage to break up with him when he kicked me with steel-toed boots hard enough to leave a scar,” Sarah said, “And now God uses that situation to help me relate to women who are abused.”

But Sarah continued to get caught up in bad relationships. Finally, when Sarah was 19, her father convinced her to join the Airforce. She met with a recruiter, but she started feeling sick the next week while she was on vacation. She was shocked when she got a positive reading on an at-home pregnancy test. Her mother arranged for her to go to Care Net.

The thought of becoming a teenage mom was overwhelming to Sarah, but the caring, non-judgmental counselors at Care Net helped Sarah to accept her pregnancy; she gave birth to a baby girl in 2008 and chose to keep and parent her.

Those first few years as a single mom were a challenge for Sarah.  She struggled with ups and downs and had some setbacks. Though she loved her daughter and recognized her as a gift from God, Sarah admits she wasn’t following God; she was continuing to do life on her own terms.

Three years after her daughter was born, Sarah again found herself pregnant. When she looked at the screen during an ultrasound, she was shocked to see two babies! “This is when I realized that I need to get back to following what God wants me to do,” she said.

She returned to Care Net and started doing Bible studies and reading her Bible daily. In a dramatic way, God made it clear that she needed to end the toxic relationship she was in, and He gave her the strength to do it.  She rededicated her life to Jesus and has never looked back. 

During her pregnancy, Sarah prayed and sought God’s will. She met with a counselor from an adoption agency and considered that option, but God gave her a special Bible verse. “Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?  And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matthew 6:25-27 ESV)?

Sarah felt God was telling her it was His plan for her to keep her babies, and that He would provide for her. With support from her family and help from Care Net, Sarah made it through her pregnancy.

After the twins were born in 2011, Sarah felt so blessed that God had given her three beautiful children. Sarah promised God that she would make raising them a top priority and that she wouldn’t let a man get between her and her children. She knew now that her heavenly Father was the only one she needed to rely on. She was also grateful that her mom was so supportive and welcomed the four of them into her home.

A year later, Sarah’s friend from her high school youth group arranged for her to have dinner with a young man she had worked with named Jared.  They met at a local restaurant and hit it off. Over the course of six months, they became better acquainted, and finally, Sarah allowed him to meet her children.  The children loved him from the start, and he loved them, too. Sarah and Jared were married in 2013.

“It was only by God’s grace that I was able to find a man who loves God, who loves my children, and who loves me, and I didn’t even go looking for him,” Sarah said. 

In 2015, Sarah began working for Bank of America, and by 2018, Sarah was well established in her career there. But she began to feel a calling to help women who struggle with unplanned pregnancies, women who were in the same situation she had been in. Sarah heard about a prayer meeting Care Net was hosting at her church, and she volunteered to help with whatever needed to be done. 

At the meeting, she met Paul Marshall, the Executive Director; she told him her story and how much Care Net had helped her.

He invited Sarah to speak at two breakfasts at local churches which Care Net held for their liaisons.  This was a big deal for Sarah.  Prior to this, even though Sarah knew she was forgiven, she didn’t talk much about her past. “For the longest time I felt ashamed because I wasn’t married, and I was a single mom, so I really didn’t share my story,” Sarah said, “And then God was saying to me, ‘Be open about this; It is okay because I have forgiven you for your sins.’”

There were approximately twenty people in the audience at each of the breakfasts. Sarah received wonderful feedback after each of her speeches, and then she was invited to speak in front of an audience of about a hundred at an annual Care Net banquet.

“I felt excited and blessed that I was able to share my story,” Sarah said, “and I didn’t have to have that shame anymore.”

During this time, Sarah started volunteering at the Rome Center, but she had no direct contact working with the women. Her desire to serve this population of women continued to grow. “I just really felt the calling,” she said.

When she heard of a job opening at Care Net, she interviewed for it not knowing what or where it was. “When I heard it was for the director position at the Herkimer Center where I was once a client, I just knew that God had put it all in place for me.” Though it meant giving up her career in banking and taking a major pay cut, she followed God’s calling and began her new career with Care Net in April 2019.

To anyone going through an unplanned pregnancy, Sarah says, “Don’t doubt yourself. You can be a great mother and still pursue a career and education like me. And never lose sight of God amid chaos or troubles. Even though you might not feel Him right in front of you, He is there, and He loves you so much! I don’t know how I would’ve made it through without Him!” 

Sarah has been a director for four years at Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Central New York, at the Herkimer location until it closed, and at the Ilion location since it opened in 2021. She helps dozens of women every year. She is also enrolled as a full-time college student at Grand Canyon University where she is working online toward her Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology with an emphasis in Social Work. But her greatest passion is being a mother to her three children.                                                                                                                              

If you or a loved one is in need of  free pregnancy services or healing from an infant loss, click here to be connected to Care Net Pregnancy Centers of Central New York. If you are not in Central New York,  click here to find the center near you.