Tuesday, February 17, 2009

AmeriCorps doula opportunities

As I said in my recent post, I wish more people knew about the opportunity to do maternal and child health work in AmeriCorps! (Still, I only found my job because I stumbled across it in the course of a massive AmeriCorps job search, so I understand why more people don't know about it.) There are amazing benefits to working for a good AmeriCorps program, not least of which is that your training is free. AmeriCorps programs are used to hiring people with relatively little training (although relevant experience doesn't hurt), so you are getting a huge resume's worth of experience for nothing up front. I became a Certified Doula and a Certified Breastfeeding Educator through my program. A good program (note that not all programs are good!) will also offer professional development opportunities, extra trainings, and opportunities to explore careers that are of interest to you. (AmeriCorps also offers you the opportunity to qualify for food stamps, although not everyone counts this as a plus.)

The program I worked for was part of the Community HealthCorps (not to be confused with the National Health Service Corps, which is for medical professionals with a clinical degree). Here's a list of the program locations, all located at federally funded community health centers. When I last knew - and this knowledge is several years old, so it may no longer be totally inaccurate - there were doula programs at the sites in Brooklyn, Denver, Seattle and Providence (although I no longer see the Providence site on the list, so sadly it may have closed). There was certainly discussion of training more, but I don't know if they have.

If you have any interest in health, some of these programs are great opportunities to get more experience. Some are aimed more at high school grads, others at college grads. My best advice, if you're looking, is to treat AmeriCorps the same way as you would treat any other job search. Look hard at the job, the supervisors, the program before you accept it. These programs are only as good as the organizations who run them, and since you're not going to get much money out of it you should be getting a great experience!

Edited to add, January 2011: After almost two years, I'm pleased that people are still finding this post and getting inspired by the opportunity to become a doula through AmeriCorps! Sometimes people e-mail me to ask for more information about doing one of these programs. While I am happy to talk to you about my experiences, I am now many years out of the program and don't know anything about the current programs available.

If you're interested in finding AmeriCorps doula programs, I suggest you try the following options:

1) Take a look at the Community HealthCorps link above and try to contact individual programs, or contact the Community HealthCorps national office directly;

2) Search the AmeriCorps program website for opportunities - unfortunately they don't seem to give you the option of keyword-searching program descriptions, so you would need to drill down looking for health-related programs and read through their descriptions to find ones that do maternal and child health/doula services.

The fastest and simplest way is probably to contact the national office directly; I encourage you to encourage them to make this information more easily accessible on the web! I would love to be able to link to a resource page with updated info on all of the programs.


JAH said...

I just left a birth conference having thoughts about this type of program going through my mind. Being a former AmeriCorps director prior to having kids, I thought of AmeriCorps as a resource. I think it would be interesting to organize this type of program in more communities. I would like to know more information but the link you included did not go directly to the page you were referring to. Can you provide more information?

Rebecca said...

Wow, links get broken quickly! Although it looks like the excellent reason for this one getting broken is that Community HealthCorps got their own website. The link is now fixed!

I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see this program in more communities! Organizing more community doula programs is often on my mind as I go through my MPH.

JAH said...

Thanks. Do you know how many of these programs have the doula component? I was looking at the individual Community Health Corps programs listing. It seemed like some had the doula component and some didn't mention it. I am wondering if some of them don't have this component if communities could work with health centers to get it. I am in Illinois but I noticed Grace Hill in St. Louis (about 45 minutes from me) does prenatal education but they didn't mention doula services. I volunteer with a grassroots organization where mothers provide support to other mothers around birth issues. Our chapter covers both states so I have interest in both states. Is there someplace to email you directly or where I can leave my email so I can ask you more information?

Rebecca said...

The last time I knew, only Providence, Denver, Brooklyn, and Seattle had doulas. I just learned that the entire Providence HealthCorps program no longer exists, so that's one down. Other sites may have added a doula component since - that was 5 years ago.

That's a really good question about how to get programs to add it. I certainly think it would be do-able, although it would involve several parties (clinic administrators, the AmeriCorps coordinator for that site, site supervisors, and partnering hospitals to name a few off the top of my head).

You can e-mail me at bexli_c AT hotmail if you want to talk more!

Anonymous said...

Hi PHD, I stumbled over from Unnecessarian. Thanks for updating the post. I will contact them to suggest that it should be easier to search for this particular program. I searched google for [AmeriCorps doula] no quotes and the best matches were still yours and others based on your info.
It would also be great to be able to suggest program locations - there's nothing near me here in MT.

Rebecca said...

Labortrials, I wish there were more programs as well! The way AmeriCorps funding/position creation works is complicated, but I know there is a lot of interest out there in more doula positions.