The birth of a child is no easy feat: bringing another life into this world is a marvel in every sense of the word. But with the proper support and resources in place, the experience can be an empowering, enlightening moment for any birthing mother. One big way that mothers can power through birth is through the support of doulas, an incredible source of support for women through the prenatal days, birth, postpartum, and everything in between. Now, thanks to the support of the U.S. House of Representatives, more women in the Capital City and beyond will have access to these incredible resources on their journey to motherhood.

A recently announced federal grant will enable more mothers in Mercer County to get the benefits of working with community doulas, who provide emotional, physical, and informational support before, during, and after childbirth.

The $631,500 grant, championed by US Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, will help The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey train community doulas for Spanish-speaking mothers and offer doula training and services to additional diverse populations, including Black/African-American women, Muslim/Arabic-speaking women, and Eastern European women. The grant will support 24 Trenton and Mercer County women to participate in doula training in Spanish and English. It also will partially support nine doulas and two doula case managers. In addition, CHSofNJ will offer training – including on how to bill Medicaid for doula services – to help doulas manage their businesses and make the profession more sustainable. 

“New Jersey’s infant and maternal mortality rate has long been a disgrace for our state,” said U.S. Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman, addressing those gathered at a press conference to announce the funding. She continued, “The mortality rates for Black and Hispanic mothers in New Jersey are especially shameful and are equivalent to that of many Third World countries. Through the efforts of organizations like the Children’s Home Society and advocates’ increased focus on this issue, including First Lady Tammy Murphy, improvements have been seen in recent years. While New Jersey has a long way to go, I’m proud to have been able to secure funding for the Children’s Home Society’s Community Doula Program and their efforts to help make New Jersey the best place in the country to birth and raise a child, no matter one’s background.”

She spoke at a gathering of more than 50 maternal healthcare professionals, hospital administrators, funders, new mothers, and elected officials at CHSofNJ headquarters in Trenton to celebrate this milestone funding opportunity for the local community.

Crowd applauds as Representative Bonnie Watson-Coleman addresses the audience

 In 2018, America’s Health Rankings listed New Jersey as the 47th worst state for maternal mortality. This year, the state moved to 29th. NJ Department of Health data from 2016 – 2018 show that a Black mother in New Jersey is almost seven times more likely than a White mother to die from maternity-related complications, and a Black baby is nearly three times more likely than a White baby to die before their first birthday. For Hispanic mothers, the rate is 3.5 compared with white mothers, and for Hispanic babies, the rate is nearly 1.5.

The new funding from the US Department of Health and Human Services will help The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey expand a program that has markedly improved outcomes for mothers and infants since its inception in 2019. Since then, CHSofNJ AMAR’s Community-Based Doula Program, which offers doula training and services to Spanish speakers in Trenton and Mercer County, has helped improve birth outcomes for more than 160 Hispanic birthing families — with 98.9% full birthweight births compared to 92% statewide; 98% full-term births compared to 91% statewide; and 67% of babies exclusively receiving breastmilk at six weeks compared to 46% nationally.

These federal funds build on five years of robust grant support from the Burke Foundation, which launched the AMAR doula program. Burke was joined in funding AMAR by the Princeton Area Community Foundation’s Fund for Women & Girls and the NJ State Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development. This public-private partnership has dramatically improved maternal-child health outcomes and health equity in New Jersey.

“Community doulas play a crucial role in the fight to end New Jersey’s intolerable racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health,” said Atiya Weiss, executive director of the Burke Foundation. “Today, we celebrate the work of Children’s Home Society to help pregnant women receive the high-quality health care they want, need, and – maybe most important — deserve.”

Silvia Corado, the AMAR Doula Supervisor at CHSofNJ, spoke about the powerful impact of community doulas on maternal and infant well-being. “Being an AMAR community doula means empowering women with valuable information to achieve a healthy pregnancy, providing physical and emotional support throughout their childbirth journey, and ensuring they have the necessary tools for a successful postpartum period,” said Corado.

James Burke, President of The Burke Foundation, addressing the crowd alongside Atiya Weiss, Executive Director

Rep. Watson Coleman was joined by James Burke, president; Atiya Weiss, executive director of the Burke Foundation; and Marelyn Rivera, executive director Center for Hispanic Policy, Research, and Development. Also in attendance were Cordelia Staton, CHSofNJ trustee and vice president of community relations; Maritza Raimundi-Petroski, vice president of strategic initiatives, prevention programs, and community engagement; Silvia Corado, AMAR doula supervisor; and Karen Courtney, chief operating officer, CHSofNJ.

Founded in 1894, The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey’s (CHSofNJ) mission is saving children’s lives and building healthy families. We achieve this mission through a continuum of supportive and preventative programs and services designed to protect abused or neglected infants and children; provide education and resources to strengthen and empower families; and help every child have a stable, permanent, and loving home. 

Check presented to the Children’s Home Society of New Jersey by the U.S. House of Representatives

About Author