“It’s about investing in our families and having that heart connection. We want our families to feel how much we enjoy what we do, and that we’re here with them from the start.”
~ Jasmine Martin, Doula Program Supervisor
Jasmine Martin has been a doula at Children’s Home & Aid for six years, walking hand in hand with countless moms and dads who have a range of emotions as they prepare to bring a new life into the world. Now, she is a doula program supervisor who oversees a team of staff that works with families in and around central Illinois. When asked about what it means to be a doula, Jasmine’s face lights up.
“The word ‘doula’ means servant. And that’s what we do. We connect them with resources in their communities like childcare and housing, drop off basic supplies like diapers and wipes, and act as advocates and coaches throughout the pregnancy and once the baby arrives. Everything is in service of the mom and the family,” Jasmine explains. “It’s also about being compassionate and having fun. Doulas love the miracle of childbirth. No two pregnancies are the same, even when it’s the same mom and she’s having her second or third child. Each time is a thrill.”
At Children’s Home & Aid, family strengthening begins before birth. But not all moms and dads have equal access to the care, resources, and support that they need to successfully transition into parenthood. Doulas play a critical role in navigating these barriers, partnering with families to ensure they have the services they need regardless of the color of their skin or the zip code they live in. “It’s important for every mom, but especially our moms of color, to feel validated and that they have an advocate. And that’s what we do as doulas and on a larger scale, what we do as an agency,” Jasmine says.
“We serve a diverse population, so it is of the utmost importance that our families and communities feel we are invested in helping them build healthy and safe futures for their babies,” Jasmine says. “We care about what they’re going through day-to-day and understand that oftentimes, those challenges have layers that might impact the quality of care they receive at a hospital or clinic. It is our job as doulas to find solutions alongside our families.”
Stephanie Caltagerone has been with Children’s Home & Aid since 2010, and for the last three years has overseen MotherHouse Crisis Nursery and the doula program in Rockford as the family support services supervisor. “My favorite part of this work is when my two programs intersect and collaborate to help strengthen families. More than once, we’ve had a little one in our crisis nursery while mom is in the hospital, and one of my doulas is at her side providing emotional support and helping her to advocate for herself so that her baby’s birth is what she hoped it would be,” Stephanie notes proudly. “We’re even able to send photos and video from the nursery to help ease mom’s mind that their other child is doing just fine transitioning into the role of big brother or big sister.”
Supporting the well-being of the whole family
Stephanie is excited about the opportunity to empower more new families with the help of a new public grant that has added capacity to her team, enriching and expanding the services her program provides. “My doulas are amazing individuals who live and breathe the work that they do,” Stephanie says. “Our goal is prevention with a purpose. We partner with parents on where they need support so that kids are safe and can stay with their families where they belong. We want new parents to see that there’s no shame in asking for help.”
“We know that families know exactly what they need and are very resilient. Often, they forget just how strong they are because of the experiences they’ve had with poverty, racism, domestic violence, or other traumas,” Stephanie concludes. “Our goal is to help them see their strengths again and believe in their ability to be good parents and move their children in a helpful, healthy, direction forward.”
Thank you to the many donors who support our doula program and other services for strengthening new families! To learn more about the doula program, or if you know someone who might benefit from this supportive service, please visit us online.