August 03, 2023

Rep. Watson Coleman Announces $631,500 Grant for Doula Training by the Children's Home Society of New Jersey

More than 80 maternal health care professionals, hospital administrators, funders, new mothers, some with their infants, and elected officials gathered at the Children's Home Society of New Jersey to celebrate federal funding to expand doula services and training in Trenton and Mercer County.

"New Jersey's infant and maternal mortality rate has long been a disgrace for our state. The mortality rates for Black and Hispanic mothers in New Jersey are especially shameful and are equivalent to that of many 3rd world countries. Through the efforts of Organizations like the Children's Home Society and the increased focus on this issue by advocates, 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," said Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), addressing those gathered at a press conference to announce the funding.

The grant comes as New Jersey works to eliminate unacceptable racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health outcomes in the state.

In 2018, America’s Health Rankings listed New Jersey as the 47th worst state for maternal mortality. This year, the state moved to 29th on the list. NJ Department of Health data from 2016 – 2018 shows 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.

Through $631,500 in funding from the U.S Department of Health and Human Services, The Children’s Home Society of New Jersey (CHSofNJ) will expand a program that has markedly improved outcomes for mothers and infants since its inception in 2019. Since then, the CHSofNJ AMAR Community-Based Doula Program, which offers doula training and services to Spanish speakers in Trenton and Greater 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 private funding 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 greatly improved maternal child health outcomes and health equity in New Jersey.

The federal expansion grant will enable CHSofNJ to support community doula training and services 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 women from Trenton and Mercer County to participate in doula training in Spanish and English. The grant will partially support nine doulas (full and part-time) and two doula case managers (part-time). CHSofNJ will also offer small business training for all trained doulas to provide the opportunity to work as entrepreneurs, including billing NJ Medicaid for doula services. The NJ Medicaid doula benefit is a part of First Lady Tammy Murphy’s Nurture NJ effort to improve maternal child health outcomes for diverse people. The federal grant also prioritizes pathways out of poverty – working as a community doula provides this opportunity.

According to Atiya Weiss, Executive Director of the Burke Foundation, “Community doulas play a crucial role in the fight to end New Jersey’s intolerable racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and infant health. Today, we celebrate the work of Children’s Home Society to help pregnant women receive high-quality healthcare 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.

Rep. Watson Coleman was joined by James Burke, President and 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. 

In addition to Children's Home Society, 14 other organizations and projects in New Jersey’s 12th District will receive federal community project funding. The projects include infrastructure improvements, youth programs, health initiatives, and more.