Open Arms Perinatal Services
June 2011
Vol 3, Issue 2

Birth Notes 


Dear Friends,

As summer rolls in, we are excited to welcome our new breastfeeding peer counselors to staff. Some of our new staff members are relatively new moms, so we are also happy to welcome several new little ones to our offices. The sounds of babies blend nicely with the lively voices from the preschool next door to us in our El Centro de la Raza offices - lovely little reminders of the work we do.

With the addition of our peer counselor program, Open Arms has firmly grounded itself in community-based practice. Community-based practice and the use of community health workers (CHWs) in health promotion and disease prevention is increasingly seen as an essential component of effective policies and practices in creating healthy communities. The Federal Affordable Care Act authorized CHWs to promote positive health behaviors and outcomes for populations in medically underserved communities. Washington State is also considering funding and promoting several models of home visiting that involve recruiting and hiring workers who are of and from the communities that they serve.

We are excited by the inclusion of community-based workers - which include doulas and peer counselors - in social and health planning efforts, for we understand the incredible change we can bring about for our families and communities. The potential for truly decreasing disparities, increasing health and social equity and creating jobs in our communities is not only proven in the research, it should make policymakers and community members alike rejoice in the possibilities.

There is, however, one issue of which I hope everyone will be mindful as we move forward with implementing community-based programs. These programs are often sought out because they are cost-effective. Most are cost-effective because they prevent even more costly interventions in the lives of families. But one real risk we run is to create programs that are cost-effective because they do not adequately compensate the individuals who are serving in the roles of community workers. As programs are developed that have been proven to combat inequities in access and services, we must be vigilant that we do not economically undervalue the workers who bring about this change, ironically embedding the very inequities we are trying to reverse.

Open Arms strives to value all of our employees with fair compensation, access to benefits and policies that reflect the needs of a multicultural workforce of women. We know that community-based practice will have tremendous impact on the health and well-being of our communities. We will continue to advocate for holistic programs that will regard both the workers and the women and families they serve with respect and dignity.

Warmest regards,


Sheila Capestany

Executive Director 

In This Issue
GiveBIG to Open Arms this June 23rd
2010 Community Report Now Available
Peer Breastfeeding Program Launched in June
Why Focus on Infants?
Save the Date! 2011 Auction Nov. 29
Annual Spring Luncheon Report
Thank you, milkmakers!
Multiyear Giving Campaign
Find us on Facebook

Follow us on Twitter

Join Our Mailing List!

GiveBIG to Open Arms this June 23rd 

On June 23, 2011, The Seattle Foundation will host its first GiveBIG - one of the biggest giving days in King County history. Can we count on your support? All donations made on that day through the Open Arms Perinatal Services page on the Seattle Foundation website will stretch even further thanks to partial match by The Seattle Foundation and business sponsors like CHASE, Seattle Sounders FC, Seattle International Foundation and more.

To participate, mark your calendar for June 23rd, and then between the hours of 7am and midnight, donate through our page on The Seattle Foundation website. To receive the partial match and to be eligible for "Golden Tickets" which contribute an additional $1000 to Open Arms, you must donate on that website and on June 23rd only. Thanks for your support!

2010 Community Report Now Available 

We are pleased to present our community with our 2010 Community Report. If you would prefer a printed copy, please contact our office.


Last year was a busy one. With the Outreach Doula Service in full swing, we continue to work closely with Thrive By Five to provide care to women in White Center for up to two years following the birth of their babies. Our Birth Doula Program has continued to serve a high number of women across King County. While the demand for culturally competent perinatal services continues to rise, the safety net continues to shrink with many budget and program cuts in our community.  


We strive to ensure that all women receive the support they need to bring their babies into the world in a healthy and loving way. 

Peer Breastfeeding Program Launched in June 

We are delighted to announce that our new Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Program is  underway!

Open Arms has entered a partnership with the King County Department of Public Health-Women Infant Children (WIC) program to provide Breastfeeding Peer Counseling Services. This new program offers an opportunity for new moms to talk to a trained breastfeeding support person who has shared the same experiences and who comes from the same community. Peer counselors model and provide essential breastfeeding information and support for mothers by phone, email or in-person, especially during the critical early days and weeks of infants' lives. They fill the gap in services after hospital discharge to provide breastfeeding support, as they are accessible in the evenings and weekends outside of normal clinic or hospital business hours. Research shows that this support increases the length of time in which infants are exclusively breastfed.

In early June, Open Arms hired eight exceptional women from the African American, Ethiopian and Eritrian, Latina, Somali, Ukrainian/Russian, Vietnamese and White communities. Our new counselors all have breastfed their babies for at least six months and have experience using WIC nutrition support for their families. Our new staff are now receiving training and beginning their work with excitement. 

We warmly welcome our new peer counselors: Ambar, Brittany, Kebra, Kimberly, Leahla, Leanne, Maria and Suad. Look for an interview with one of our peer counselors in an upcoming newsletter!

Why Focus on Infants? 

There is increasing attention at the federal level for programs that provide services to infants and new parents. Why the new emphasis on babies?  


First, emerging consensus by the scientific community is that the brain is forever shaped by a baby's in utero and early life experiences. Excessive stress in the mother raises levels of hormones in babies that literally change the architecture and function of their brains. Brain scientists believe that these early effects have lifelong consequences, affecting how people interpret and react to stress and form relationships in their later lives.  


Secondly, we know that infants enter foster care at a high rate (4.1 infants per 1000 reported this year by Chapin Hall). Infants also have lower rates of reunification and longer lengths of stay in foster care. This is problematic because infants' brains are so vulnerable, wired to connect with one stable caregiver. Without such an attachment relationship, children are greatly challenged to learn the intricacies of modulating their own emotions, reading faces accurately and acquiring language.  


All of these underlie other cognitive gains a child is expected to make as part of normal development. Intervening early, as soon as a woman knows she is pregnant, allows Open Arms doulas to support women in working through stress and practicing self-care. Connecting new mothers with community resources and social support may decrease levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress that is toxic to her fetus. Promoting breastfeeding also protects developing brains. In addition to supplying baby with nutrients and energy ideal for brain growth, breastfeeding increases oxytocin release by mother. Oxytocin is a protective hormone which stimulates attachment between mother and infant, decreases anxiety and protects against postpartum depression. Open Arms' doulas and peer breastfeeding counselors influence brain development from the earliest moments of life, yet their efforts will last a lifetime.

Save the Date! 2011 Auction To Be Held Tuesday, November 29th  at SANCA 

Save the Date of Tuesday, November 29, 2011 from 6:00 - 8:00 PM!   


Our Short and Sweet Auction will reach new heights this year at the School for Acrobatics and New Circus Arts (SANCA) - a local 501c(3) dedicated to improving the physical and mental health of children of all ages by engaging them in the joyous creativity of acrobatics and circus arts.  


The annual Open Arms auction aims to support local businesses and offers attendees a night of guilt-free holiday shopping and fun all in two hours. Our event will be a fun-filled night complete with exciting offerings, an aerial show and even, if you're brave, an opportunity to try a few circus arts yourself.  


Ladies and gentlemen, mark your calendar and join the fun. This will be an evening you won't want to miss!

2011 Annual Spring Luncheon Held on March 24 

Our third annual fundraising luncheon was held at the W Seattle on March 24 with over 250 people in attendance. Supported by a generous matching pool, our supporters raised $62,000 for Open Arms.   


This event is the primary Open Arms fundraiser each year, and the Open Arms family deeply appreciates the support of our community. Click here to read the speech by Dr. Ben Danielson, which was very well received, or view our luncheon video for an overview of our work. 


Did you enjoy the ambience and the chance to meet others who care about childbirth, first relationships and early learning?  Our luncheon committee is looking for volunteers to help with next year's event. Please contact us if you would like to join in the fun.

Thank you, milkmakers! 

milkmakers, a Seattle-based baking company that makes lactation cookies to support nursing moms in their efforts to provide an abundant supply of breastmilk to their babies, donated 5 percent of all sales of its cookies in May to Open Arms Perinatal Services in honor of Mother's Day on May 8th. To find out more about milkmakers or to place an order, visit Thank you, milkmakers!

Multiyear Giving Campaign

Open Arms has been fortunate to have some dedicated friends who understand the importance of financing our basic infrastructure, without which we would have no Birth Doula Program. In these unstable economic times, multiyear giving allows for nonprofits to budget forward and count on the pledged support over the next few budget cycles.

We are honored to have won the allegiance of several Friends who have pledged a minimum of $2,500 for three consecutive years. Our Friends will be kept abreast of innovations, strategic planning and community partnerships and are invited to participate in visioning with the staff and board.

Would you like to join our extend your annual gift over three years? Multiyear gifts of $500, $1,000 and $2,500 go a long way toward ensuring continued financial stability in the context of program reductions statewide in maternity support services. If you are interested, please contact Sheila Capestany at or 206-723-6868 to discuss a gift.

Board of Directors:

Kelly Beeken, Sharon Cunnington, Chiemi Davis, Peggy Fitzgerald, Emily Kane, Jay McLean-Riggs, Erica Nixon Mack, Sarah Pulliam, Sabrina Urquhart, Ty Watanabe 



Maria Apreza, Ambar Begay, Kebra Bezabih, Leanne Brock, Sheila Capestany, Margarita Celis, Leahla Contreras, Jeff Deveux, Kimberly Dill, Yvette Dioubate, Hawa Egal, Libin Egal, Suad Farole, Deziree Lindsay, Annie Moffat, Michelle Sarju, Erica Sugita, Brittany Tamayo 


Students and Volunteers:

Rebecca Allen, Haydee Bale, Rachael Brown, Asha Farah, Sarah Hartzell


Photography by:

Melissa Miller,