From the desk of ... Jessica Porter director of ALACE. (Go Ask ALACE).
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the organization's history, ALACE was founded to expand the Childbirth Educator and Labor Assistant training programs that were originated by Informed Homebirth/Informed Birth and Parenting (IH/IBP).
Rahima Baldwin Dancy, author of Special Delivery, You Are Your Child's First Teacher, and co-author of Pregnant Feelings, founded Informed Homebirth in 1977. She wanted to provide information about birth at home, and at that time there was very little information available for families who made that choice. Rahima developed a series of classes that she recorded on a reel-to-reel tape recorder and made available to expectant parents across North America. These classes became the basis of the original IH Teacher Training program, which was developed in 1978 to prepare teachers to teach homebirth childbirth classes in their own communities.
While most of the early IH teachers came from a homebirth background, they soon found themselves teaching hospital-bound families as well. In 1981 the second name "Informed Birth and Parenting" was added so that expectant parents could more readily identify instructors as having the information they wanted, regardless of where they were giving birth.
In 1983, IH/IBP began a Midwife's Assistant Training program, which provided an introduction to midwifery and skills that helped students secure apprenticeships with practicing midwives. After a few years this program evolved into the Labor Assistant Training program, to support the growing number of women (and a few men) who were turning labor support into a profession in and of itself. In 1993, IH/IBP began its certification program for Labor Assistants.
In 1994, Rahima decided that she wanted to focus her energy on her midwifery practice. I had been working for IH/IBP for a couple of years, and was in the process of moving from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Cambridge, Massachusetts. Rahima suggested that instead of looking for a new Director of IH/IBP to replace me, I could form a new organization to continue offering the training programs and serving our members.
And that is how ALACE was born. IH/IBP remains a resource for parents interested in homebirth and Waldorf education, and ALACE continues to offer quality trainings and support for childbirth educators and labor assistants/birth doulas.
ALACE has always shared IH/IBP'S core principles. Our programs continue to reflect our belief that midwifery should be considered the standard of care for normal birth, whether taking place at home, in the hospital, or in birth centers. We also believe strongly that birth should be woman-centered and woman-directed. Women's bodies know how to give birth; our goal is to help women and their caregivers reclaim trust in that knowledge.
While holding on to these and other core philosophies, we have also made some changes in the last six years. We have expanded our focus and our outreach to include women of different backgrounds, particularly women of color. We have also expanded our advertising campaign, and dramatically increased the rate of referrals to our professional members. In 1998, we expanded the format of our Labor Assistant Training workshop, and our three-day workshop continues to receive rave reviews.
ALACE has also made a real commitment to networking and collaborating with other organizations. Here in Massachusetts, we are a part of the Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies of Massachusetts coalition, and are active in Partners for Perinatal Health, a statewide coalition that organizes a yearly conference.
Nationally, we have always played an active role in the Coalition for Improving Maternity Services (CIMS), which is developing a process by which hospitals, birth centers, and homebirth services can apply to be designated as "Mother-Friendly." CIMS has also just finished a wonderful brochure about mother-friendly birth for consumers that we will be making available to ALACE members in the next few months.
For this year, our immediate goals are to update and improve our website, to provide greater support to our members through strengthening our network of regional directors and state coordinators, and to publish an international directory of our members. The website is currently under construction, and over the next few months you should be seeing some exciting changes. And we have been very pleased to welcome some new and very motivated regional directors who are eager to promote ALACE and support our members in their areas.
It has been wonderful to watch ALACE grow over the last several years. I think about the web of ALACE teachers and labor assistants that supports hundreds of thousands of women and their families as they experience pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. This web is constantly expanding, and our vision here at the central office is that it is this web that will transform cultural views of birth.
As a member of this web, you are an essential part of the organization and this vision. As always, we encourage each of you to contribute to the organization by sending us your ideas, articles for Special Delivery, suggestions for our website, and reports about what you are doing in your own community. We are pleased to be working with each of you to support women and their families.
RELATED ARTICLE: ALACE Web Page.
We are in the process of a major web page overhaul, and want to share the progress with all of our members, as well as ask for your input. Our plans right now are to break the project into three phases. The first phase is to update the information on the current page, change our host server, and get our domain name (alace.org) working again. This stage has already begun, and we now have a new address and hosting site free of banners. If our domain name is not working by the time you receive this copy of Special Delivery, you can reach the ALACE page at http://22.214.171.124.
The second stage will be to expand the resources on the web page for professionals and consumers. We will be adding excerpts from Special Delivery, as well as other articles and resources for parents. For professionals, we will be adding resources and a networking area to help people find support groups in their areas.
The third phase of the project will be to establish an on-line database, so that consumers can get referrals for ALACE Childbirth Educators and Labor Assistants without having to call the office.
We would really like to have the input of our members as we undertake this project, and encourage you to contact us with your ideas and suggestions. In addition, we are setting up a working committee that will help the office by making suggestions, writing and soliciting content, and working out the logistics of the online referral process. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please contact Jessica at the central office, by phone at (888) 222-5223 or by email at email@example.com.