Open Arms Perinatal Services Programs
Open Arms provides doula and peer counseling services that are culturally and linguistically appropriate, including providing bilingual and bicultural doulas and peer counselors, which are crucial in helping to eliminate health disparities in our society. Doulas are trained, experienced, and certified to provide caring support to women before, during, and immediately after birth. Birthing women who are served by Open Arms benefit from:
- Access to culturally and linguistically appropriate, quality perinatal care.
- Education and support during the birth process that helps new parents make the transition from pregnancy to birth and take on the daunting task of caring for a newborn.
- A diminished sense of isolation that can be devastating to a new family.
- Nurturing support through pregnancy and birth that leads to increased health and well being for mothers, babies and families.
- Culturally specific support during the vital prenatal and early breastfeeding period.
- Improved infant mortality rates as well as other health measures.
Our regional Birth Doula Services provide quality perinatal support to low-income pregnant women and their families from the last trimester of pregnancy to six-weeks postpartum. The services include home visits, education, and advocacy. Our doulas provide emotional and physical support; information and educational materials, as well as coaching to new parents on positive nurturing and attachment behaviors, and support for breastfeeding. The doula is present and attending the mother during labor, delivery, and immediately postpartum, and provides social support, light case management, and referrals to other services as needed.
As a partner in the Thrive by Five White Center Early Learning Initiative, Open Arms provides outreach doulas to the Somali and Latina communities as a part of the Home-Based Early Learning Strategy. Outreach doulas provide culture-specific services that begin early in pregnancy and continue up to two years after delivery, helping women and their families who need more intensive support during pregnancy and early parenting. In addition to the emotional and physical support, education and advocacy, and parent coaching that all doulas provide, outreach doulas also:
- Perform comprehensive assessments.
- Engage families in a plan of care.
- Develop a mentoring relationship focusing on healthy pregnancy, birth, parenting, and early learning.
- Act as community liaisons with other community agencies and professionals.
Open Arms is partnered with the King County Department of Public Health—Women Infant Children program to provide Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Services. BPC offers an opportunity for new moms to talk to someone trained in providing breastfeeding support who has shared the same experience—someone whom they can relate to and feel comfortable sharing concerns. Peer counselors model and provide breastfeeding information and offer support to mothers. They fill the gap in services after hospital discharge to provide breastfeeding support, as they are accessible in the evenings and weekends, outside of normal clinic or hospital business hours. Counselors provide essential support for mothers by phone, email, or in-person, especially during the critical early days and weeks of infants’ lives.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
In 2012 Sheila Capestany, Executive Director of Open Arms, received the Freedom's Sisters Award. Freedom's Sisters are honored for reflecting the spirit and substance of the Civil Rights Movement in America. Sheila was chosen for this award due in large part to her work at Open Arms to promote equity and social justice for pregnant women, families and communities.
In 2010 Open Arms was honored to receive the Innovative Program Award from the Seattle Human Services Coalition in June of 2010. The Coalition recognized our unique, culturally competent doula services as a crucial element in helping to eliminate health disparities in our communities, and addressing these disparities from the earliest stage of human development. The award also cited our positive program results, which include providing education about pregnancy, and positive early parenting, increasing rates of breastfeeding, and reducing medical interventions and the cost of prenatal care.Despite our recognized program successes, Open Arms faces critical service and funding challenges.
Due to the current economic climate, we have seen an increase in levels of stress, homelessness, and domestic violence among our clients. Increasingly, doulas are seen as the only form of support for pregnant women who are facing these life stressors. While we have seen a dramatic increase in requests for services, we also have been impacted by cuts in formerly reliable funding sources. King County has faced stringent budget cuts and we lost $55,000 in annual funding from the County in 2009. Additionally, funding for Birth Doula Services was cut by Thrive by Five in 2011 for doulas serving the White Center community, and proposals for major funding cuts in 2012 are on the table.