Helping Families from the Start: Children’s Home & Aid Doula Program
After escaping a violent relationship in a neighboring community, Noelle (who was five months pregnant) and her children arrived in Rockford in the middle of a cold December night. With no family or friends to turn to, Noelle contacted Children’s Home & Aid for help, as the local shelter didn’t have room for all of them. Our Crisis Nursery provided immediate help and respite, while staff worked with Noelle to put plans in place to help stabilize her family.
One of the key resources Noelle received was a referral to our Doula program, which Children’s Home & Aid offers in Rockford and other locations across Illinois.
“Being a parent is one of the most difficult jobs and responsibilities that someone can undertake, and most parents learn from the example and with the support and guidance of friends and loved ones,” says Stephanie Neumann, a staff member in Children’s Home & Aid’s Doula Program. “What happens to moms who don’t have that support or guidance? That’s when our doula program comes in.”
A doula is a trained professional who provides guidance to parents from the third trimester of pregnancy through the first eight weeks of the baby’s life. Children’s Home & Aid doulas provide positive, persistent, outreach services and in-home visits for vulnerable parents. Postpartum depression, stress management, breastfeeding, and labor and delivery are some of the few subjects that doulas focus on to improve family health.
Stephanie Neumann has been a doula for three years and has helped countless parents on the path to successful parenthood. When asked what parents find most helpful about the Doula Program, Stephanie says, “The support from start to finish! So many times, conversations are all about the upcoming baby, and parents can be forgotten. It’s important for these moms and dads to have support and have someone there just to help them.”
In the doula program, parents receive regular visits from doulas but can also participate in prenatal and postnatal support groups. Through the program, they can rely on other parents or doulas for support, so they never have to feel alone during the pregnancy.
As Stephanie recalls, “I have been at deliveries where if I wasn’t there, the mother would go through the labor and birth of their child alone.” Doulas provide various services but the most important is being there for the parent when they have no one else for support.
With Covid-19, parents using the doula program have faced some difficulties. “A lot of parents are uncertain if they will have a support person with them at all,” says Stephanie. “They worry they are going to be alone in the labor and delivery room.”
With the pandemic continuing to spread, a lot of hospitals are limiting the number of people who can come for appointments. Though there is uncertainty of someone being there for these parents physically, doulas are remaining in contact virtually. Doulas have dropped off care kits for pregnant moms, and been there through the delivery via FaceTime, coaching and supporting the new family as they transition to parenting. Prenatal and postnatal groups are also being conducted virtually and give parents the opportunity to talk with other families facing the same journey.
Noelle, the mom who showed up in Rockford alone with her children, went through her high-risk c-section with her doula by her side. Her doula helped the family to get connected with childcare, housing, education, trauma-informed therapy, and long-term case management services. Most importantly, because of her doula, Noelle has learned to trust again.
Thank you to the many donors who support our doula program and other services for new families! To learn more about the doula program, or if you know someone who might benefit from this supportive service, please visit https://www.childrenshomeandaid.org/parenting/healthy-start/