Celebrating 25 Years of Community-Based Healing

Birth work ­- when rooted in equity, justice, and love – is healing work. When mothers and birthing people receive unwavering support through their pregnancies and the challenges of parenthood, the effects are felt for generations. As Open Arms enters its 25th year, our dedication to inter-generational healing through birth and early childhood support to our communities is as strong as ever.

To meet the needs of families during the COVID-19 pandemic, Open Arms expanded its services. We are proud of our added capacity to connect families with resources in mental health support, housing, transportation, domestic violence, and legal aid with our Family Support Services team.

Although we look forward to safely resuming in-person visits, we quickly adapted to a virtual world. We do contact-free doorstep deliveries of food bags, diapers, PPE, and even COVID-19 test kits. Our lactation team provided 200 individual lactation support virtual visits and Open Arms reached 22,000 individuals through online education events since 2020. Now, you have full access to our Perinatal Collaborative and Lactation Support team’s educational recordings through our website’s new virtual library.

Our approach is evidence-informed, culturally responsive, and community-centered. In 2020, we provided 266 community members with training opportunities to build their skills to serve birthing families. By investing in birth workers, maternal and infant health outcomes are improved in underserved communities and our families’ outcomes exceed those of Washington state and the country. As of 2021, 95% of our families give birth at full term and healthy birth weight, 85% avoid unplanned cesareans, and 82% are still breast/chestfeeding at six months.[i]

These outcomes are changing lives. In 2019, Asha was experiencing homelessness when pregnant with her second child. She heard about Open Arms through her shelter and was matched with Suad Farole, a Community-Based Outreach Doula. As a Somali American, Suad could relate to Asha’s experience as a fellow African immigrant. In Suad, Asha found a mentor, guide, and trusted friend to support her through pregnancy, birth, and her daughter for two years. When Asha became pregnant with her son in late 2020, she knew she wanted Suad to be with her. In Asha’s words, When I first decided to get a doula, I didn’t expect what I received. Suad was a true gift that not only oversaw the safety of my child as she came into this world, but she truly cared for my well-being and helped me to become the mother that I am now.”

Between 1997 and 2020, Open Arms has served thousands of people like Asha. We have provided 59,182 hours of services and 17,539 hours supporting childbirth to more than 3,900 families from 66 countries, who speak over 36 languages. As we enter 2022, Open Arms’ mission to provide responsive perinatal care to families remains critical and necessary in the Puget Sound region.

Our work to provide safe and supported birth experiences is just one of many critical supports needed to improve wellbeing in our communities. This is why we have laid out our legislative priorities for this year that include bills to advance Maternal Health, Infant Mental Health, Early Childhood & Early Learning, Equitable Access to Care, and Justice within Washington State.

All birthing people deserve to thrive.

 

 

[i] Compared to King county’s rates: 91% of people give birth at full term; 93% are at a healthy birth weight; and 39% are breast/chestfeeding at six months.