In 2020, Goodwill of Central & Southern Indiana, with funding from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, sponsored two doula certification courses in an effort to combat and reduce the Black morbidity and mortality rates of birthing people in Indiana; beginning with the community in Marion County.
A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that in the US, Black birthing people are at least two-and-a half times more likely to die in pregnancy, childbirth or immediately postpartum than white birthing people, with the rate increasing to four or five times higher for birthing people over the age of 30. Further, the same data found the mortality rate for Black birthing people who have at least a college degree is five times that for white birthing people.
Doulas are professionals trained in birthwork who provide continuous emotional, physical and educational support to a birthing person before, during and after childbirth to achieve the healthiest and most satisfying birthing experience possible. Doulas also act as advocates for the birthing person throughout their time together, but especially during childbirth.
“I believe doulas are part of the answer to reducing morbidity and mortality rates in Indiana, especially for Black birthing people,” said Andrea Voisard, a Community Resource Specialist with Goodwill’s Nurse-Family Partnership. “Working with a doula allows the birthing person to have a healthier, safer, birthing experience. Doulas work in tandem with the medical birth team to provide care and advocate for the birthing person.”
Goodwill sponsored the training to remove the financial barrier for 22 community doulas who identified as Black, Indigenous or Persons of Color (BIPOC) that wanted to become certified. Doula Training International (DTI), one of the premier online and in-person doula training organizations in the world, provided full-spectrum doula training to two BIPOC-centered cohorts of community doulas over a 16-week timeframe.
Both cohorts successfully completed their training at the end of January 2021. Voisard is now working with the trained doulas to connect them to birthing people needing doula services, so they can complete their practice hours and earn their full certifications. Her goal is to continue opening doors for future job opportunities for community doulas and to have a group of trained community doulas ready to step into those opportunities when they become available.
“There was an overwhelming response to the first call out,” said Andrea. “Advocating for the health of others has been particularly important during the pandemic and will remain a high priority in the future.” Voisard continues “We’re looking forward to continuing the doula training in 2021 for those currently on the waitlist that are interested in supporting birthing people and helping reduce morbidity and mortality rates in their communities all over Indiana.”
To learn more about Goodwill’s mission of empowering people to increase their independence and reach their potential, visit us at goodwillindy.org.