By Sarah Bahn (Estimated reading time: 3 minutes)
Thanks to an incredible network of community partners, our parent peer-support programs are available to more families through community-based organizations they already know and trust. PEPS works with several organizations to collaboratively establish parent support groups using the PEPS peer support model and curriculum while adapting to meet the specific needs of each community. Through this process, PEPS has worked in close partnership with trusted organizations to serve parents in communities that we historically have not served or have not served well. Our partner organizations know their communities best and are often best-suited to meet the needs of those communities through adaptable, community-based parent peer-support programs.
One of our incredible partner organizations is Open Arms Perinatal Services. Open Arms provides culturally sensitive services free of cost to birthing people in King, Pierce, and Snohomish counties. The organization supports families during pregnancy, birth, and early parenting through many programs, including doula support offered in 17 languages, prenatal, postpartum, and lactation support and home visits, support throughout labor and delivery, parenting education, and culturally sensitive case management to help families access baby supplies and other essential items.
We caught up with two staff members from Open Arms — Isabel Vicente Dominguez, an Intake Coordinator and Betty Hernández, the Latinx Community Specialist who runs the Birth Doula Services support program at Open Arms. Isabel and Betty are both community leads for the Open Arms-facilitated PEPS Group for Spanish-speaking families that has been running for the past three years.
When COVID disrupted in-person PEPS Groups at Open Arms, the staff worked to ensure families would not lose access to the peer support that was needed more than ever. Isabel took time to check in with families individually, providing updates on COVID and answering their questions. Betty and Isabel heard from new and existing PEPS Group participants, who asked them to “Please keep it going. It’s my only connection.” For families experiencing job loss and increased stress from the pandemic, maintaining connection with other families was critical.
In March 2020, Open Arms decided to shift their PEPS Groups to a virtual format, facilitating most groups using Zoom and experimenting with WhatsApp as a virtual connection platform. WhatsApp is a free, easy-to-use virtual connection platform that is used worldwide. Users can make calls, send messages, and share videos using data or Wi-Fi. PEPS and several partner organizations have used WhatsApp to facilitate parent support groups during the pandemic. Learn more about what a WhatsApp PEPS Group looks like on our Instagram page.
Open Arms prioritizes flexibility in their PEPS Groups. Any parent with a child aged 0-5 is welcome. The virtual format has enabled parents to join for partial meetings as their schedules allow. Open Arms PEPS Groups are often a combination of new parents and parents who have participated before, creating opportunities for experienced parents to offer support and wisdom to new parents.
Considering the increased social isolation caused by the pandemic, many Open Arms families have expressed appreciation for having a consistent outlet to connect with other parents through their PEPS Group. In addition to the support they receive from facilitators, parents build strong connections with one another and support their peers both within and outside the group. One participant even took the resources she received from her PEPS Group and shared them with colleagues who are parents as well.
Open Arms is just one example of the dedicated, tireless work our community partners do to provide parent support to their community members. We are so grateful for the wisdom our partner organizations share with us and how they center their community members in all they do.
Is your organization interested in partnering with PEPS? Reach out to our Partnership Manager, Polly Jirkovsky at email@example.com to learn more.