Open Arms Perinatal Services Launches Community Education and Engagement Program

October 6, 2023 9:27 am Published by

Open Arms’ program formalizes its birth worker workforce development efforts and seeks to train birth workers of color, free of cost.


Media Contact: Elena M. Teare,

SEATTLE, WA (October 6, 2023) – Open Arms Perinatal Services, a pioneer in the field of community-based perinatal support, is proud to announce the launch of its Community Education and Engagement program. With a steadfast commitment to improving birth experiences for families and health outcomes for communities, Open Arms has created this program in response to community needs and feedback for increased access to community-based care and professional opportunities for birth workers of color.

Open Arms’ Community Education and Engagement program represents a critical step to increase access to community spaces and professional resources for aspiring birth workers of color. This program offers comprehensive training and certification, entirely cost-free. Historically, barriers associated with training and certification have disproportionately affected BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and under-resourced communities, perpetuating a lack of diversity within the birth work profession.

Cynthia Turrietta, MSW, LICSW, Acting Co-Executive Director and Director of Programs, commented:

“This program continues to move our mission and vision forward by expanding opportunities for aspiring BIPOC perinatal providers. We are creating pathways to high-quality and culturally centered training. These pathways serve as bridges to education, mentorship, and experience new providers need to enter and sustain in the field. We continue to push for a more inclusive field and a future culture is celebrated, equity is the norm, and birthing families receive services that honor their culture and experience. We are deeply grateful for our community partners and community members who continue to support and shape our services, remaining responsive and centered in our purpose.”

Elizabeth Montez, IBCLC, leads Open Arms’ Lactation Support and Community Education Programs and is one of the nation’s few Indigenous IBCLCs. Elizabeth’s journey inspired the creation of the Community Lactation Specialist Pathway, now integrated into the Community Education program. Launched in 2021, this pathway currently hosts 37 community members. The entire cohort identifies as BIPOC, and brings together doulas, midwives, nurses, and aunties to reclaim their birthrights as knowledge sharers regardless of their job positions or credentials.

The Community Education and Engagement program centers on ancestral and cultural practices, complementing the larger effort from BIPOC perinatal providers to decolonize birth support. Montez acknowledges that “this program is work that has always existed – knowledge sharing is deeply traditional, and one of the most insidious ways white supremacy shows up is by separating our communities of color from our ancestral wisdom and skills. To be able to coordinate connection that supports community members in accessing the skills, education, and expertise that they feel called to, in a way that is culturally relevant and celebrates us, is deeply restorative. We each carry in us the seeds of our birthrights, and this program is about nurturing that within us.”

Integral to the success of this program is community engagement. Rokea Jones, MPA, IMHS, has recently re-joined the team as the Community Engagement Specialist. Jones said, “Open Arms has always placed high value on community education. Offering community education opportunities within a community-based organization is a profoundly powerful initiative. It not only fosters the exchange of knowledge but also embodies values crucial for community growth.”

Jones’s role is instrumental in fostering collaboration, communication, and consultation processes that will ensure the program’s continued responsiveness and adaptability to the ever-evolving needs of the communities it serves.

“True to Open Arms programs across the organization, equity, as a cornerstone, ensures that education is tailored to the diverse backgrounds and needs of our communities, promoting inclusivity and respect for each of us. Simultaneously, with an emphasis on collective cultural wisdom brings recognition and validation of the invaluable insights and experiences held within the community itself. By facilitating these education programs, the organization empowers individuals to share their unique perspectives, strengthens or builds new skills and ultimately strengthening the bonds of the community and promoting a sense of unity and pride in its collective knowledge that will ultimately save lives,” continued Jones.


Founded in 1997, Open Arms is the first independent, community-based program in Washington State to provide comprehensive perinatal services to over four thousand economically marginalized families. We are a predominantly BIPOC organization that provides free support during pregnancy, birth, and early childhood with birth and community-based outreach doula services, lactation counseling, and social service referrals to over 500 families annually throughout the Puget Sound region.