A first pregnancy can be a daunting experience for any woman, but even more so for young women who lack support from their families or the baby’s father. That’s where a doula can be extremely beneficial.
Children’s Home + Aid’s Central Region, based in Bloomington, serves low-income and disadvantaged families in McLean County and the surrounding area. Among the organization’s offerings is a Doula Program that serves about 80 women (age 22 and younger) a year.
A trained doula provides support to high-risk young women before, during and after pregnancy, increasing the health and well-being of both mother and child, said Tiffanny Powell, Program Manager of Family Support Services for Children’s Home + Aid. Doulas begin their relationship with expectant mothers during the prenatal period and continue through labor, delivery and the first 6 to 8 weeks of the baby’s life.
“The doulas visit our moms at their homes and provide a lot of education and bonding with the baby before it’s born,” said Powell. In 2016, the Doula Program provided 662 home visits to 79 women.
“The doula is like a midwife, but without the medical degree,” explained Powell. During birth, the doula acts as an intermediary between the mother and medical professionals to ensure the mother’s wishes are carried out.
With the Doula Program, there’s more of a holistic approach and benefits pay out in the future, said Powell, citing fewer Cesarean sections and an increase in breastfeeding. In addition, participants report they are better able to keep their child safe, know how to get support for themselves and their children and know how to show their child love, physical closeness and positive feelings.
During their home visits, doulas also screen their clients for other issues like domestic violence and post-partum depression. If necessary, the clients are referred to other social service programs in the community for additional assistance.
Children’s Home + Aid received a $3,500 general grant from Illinois Prairie Community Foundation for the Doula Program. “There are multiple programs that wouldn’t be here without community support,” said Lisa Pieper, Regional Vice President of Children’s Home + Aid. “The Doula Program definitely would have been in jeopardy.”
In addition to offering the Doula Program, Children’s Home + Aid provides programs in three key areas: family centered services, early childhood services and parent support. At the Bloomington location houses Scott Early Learning Center, a day-care center for licensed to serve 154 children birth to age 5 that works to prepare children for kindergarten, and a Crisis Nursery that provides a safe haven for up to 72 hours for children birth to age 6 during times of family stress and crisis.
If you would like to support programs like this, please consider contributing to the Illinois Prairie Community Fund’s Annual Campaign. To donate online, click here.
By Michele Evans, Grants & Communications Director