The Open Arms Outreach Doulas program has offered strong support in the Somali and Latina communities in Seattle since 2008, and it has now been recognized with national accreditation – the first program of its kind to be so honored.
“The national accreditation validates the community-centered approach to providing services to families,” said Michelle Sarju, Open Arms program manager. “We will now be able to assist other Washington-based agencies who would like to replicate programs in their communities.”
Open Arms Executive Director Sheila Capestany said the accreditation is an affirmation of “excellence and promise for the future.”
The doula program at Open Arms last year received $100,000 from the state Home Visiting Services Account administered by Thrive. The program serves families with babies and toddlers — prenatal to age 3 — in the White Center area, and it includes attendance at labor and delivery, home visits and use of the Promoting First Relationships curriculum in the child’s second year. The program is designed to support and enhance the parent-child relationship and positive social-emotional growth of the child.
“Our providers are trusted members of the communities they serve, speak the language of community members, and understand the needs of the community,” Sarju said. “Our program is a strengths-based program that is culturally responsive to the needs of individual families. The goal is to deliver high quality services to marginalized communities.”
The accreditation comes from HealthConnect One, which is pioneer of the community doula model and leads the country in advancing culturally responsive, community-based, peer-to-peer support for pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding and early parenting.
“From those early beginnings, our program has grown to be one of the most respected Community Doula programs in the nation,” Capestany said. “We are deeply grateful for everyone who has invested of time and resources, and believed in our mission.”