Are there grants available for doula work?

I get a lot of great questions via email from readers, often related to doula work. I’m going to try and post excerpts of those questions and answers here, in the hopes that it might be helpful to other readers. The one thing I’ll say in advance of this question is that the issue of compensation for doula work, especially doula work that tries to reach marginalized communities is a big one right now. There is no easy answer.

From reader:

I would like to see my practice expand again to serve homeless and low income women in our area.  I know there is a need for it.  We tell people that we work on a sliding scale and barter and trade for services, but we need to be able to do more.  I would like to be able to go into the shelter system and take on clients at no charge to them, teach our breast feeding and comfort measures classes, host support groups, ect.  At this point in our business, I cannot do it for free (My doula employee and I both have small children and are supporting our families).

I was wondering if you knew of any grants that were available to fund this sort of thing.  I know that they are out there (there seem to be grants for everything now days) and I know that the need is out there, and we have the desire.  Just got to get all the pieces in place.  Thank you for listening to my ramble, and I look forward to your reply.
My answer:
You’re right, there is a lot of money, in the grand scheme of things, going toward services for homeless folks. BUT most of that money is wrapped up in community non-profits and government agencies that run shelters and other services for this community. So one avenue would be to see if you could build a relationship with a organization that already has funding for serving this community, and in an ideal scenario, they could fundraise to pay for doula support. Obviously while there are resources, they are also really tight and allocated already to existing programs.
Another venue that you’ve probably considered is insurance reimbursement. I’ve heard anecdotally about doulas (particularly those also trained as midwives) working with clients who pay up front for the doulas services, but get reimbursed later by their insurance companies. Some folks are also beginning to make headway into Medicaid, and getting reimbursed by them. So the short answer is no, I don’t know offhand about funding that is available for doulas to work with populations in need, although I certainly think there should be. Even if there were this funding, it would likely require the doulas to be part of a 501-C3 non profit organization, so that would be another step in the process.
If people have experiences with other sourcing of funding for this work, please share them in comments!
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2 thoughts on “Are there grants available for doula work?

  1. R March 4, 2013 / 10:22 am

    In South Texas, there is an organization called San Antonio Birth Doulas that has managed to get funding from the Texas Pregnancy Care Network. TPCN was primarily designed to funnel state money in to anti-abortion programs, but the SABD organization is able to pay for “volunteer” doulas to attend births at no cost to the moms. I wrangled with whether I could volunteer with this org because of the way it’s funded, but I reasoned that it was taking a negative (antiabortion funding) and turning it into a positive (aiding moms who did choose to keep their child transition into parenthood and giving them a voice in their healthcare). Maybe your state has similar programs?

  2. cbhealth March 6, 2013 / 3:29 pm

    This is a great question! Piecing together funding for community-based doula support is something our partners around the country have been grappling with for a long, long time. The challenge is so great, in fact, that we established a national advocacy network a few years ago, working towards sustainable funding for community-based doula and breastfeeding peer counselor programs. At the moment, our advocacy efforts are focused on federal and state appropriations, public/private partnerships, Medicaid and private insurance reimbursement. There’s more info here on our website – http://www.healthconnectone.org/pages/overview/100.php – but I’m happy to field questions by email, as well, at rphillips@healthconnectone.org

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