The biggest barrier to scaling our project are funding. We have operated with a very small budget since our inception (only covering expenses), and have done this work as volunteers from the beginning. While currently we do reach 100% of pregnant women incarcerated at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women at least briefly, we could absolutely expand the support we provide them in scope, while additionally expanding our program to other correctional facilities in the area. For example, we facilitate support groups twice a month at the Maryland Correctional Institute for Women, but our clients would love to see us more often. There are enormous gaps in the pregnancy care and prenatal education this population receives, and we would love to expand our programming within the facility. For example, funding could help support additional days of Baby Bonding, a partner program that allows our clients to see and hold their infants. Other ideas we have had to expand the scope and scale of our project include, as you mentioned, training incarcerated clients to be doulas or childbirth educators themselves. Essentially, we are measuring their knowledge and self-efficacy in the childbirth process, so a natural next step would be encouraging them to support friends and peers both inside of the facility and back in their high-needs community. In terms of peer support, that is one of the strengths of our support group, that women inside can learn from each other's experiences of being pregnant while incarcerated, as we bring pregnant and postpartum women together.
Unfortunately, incarcerated women do not have access to technology inside. They can request a Google search be done for them or certain information be accessed on their behalf, but do not typically have access to the internet or technology. We do, however, rely on printed materials to spread knowledge-- these we can provide without limit, and our clients can help teach other incarcerated women about things they might learn in support group sessions. I think there is a lot of potential for innovation here, for example a easy-to-read birth plan template as they prepare for labor or the basics of baby development so they could track their infant's growth even while separated from them.
Thank you for sharing these links-- we look forward to finishing up the refinement phase!
Hi Kate, Thank you for reading! We are currently administering a self-report survey instrument to program participants that assesses their knowledge of pregnancy and birth, social support, and coping skills upon intake, after 6 mos., and after a year of participation in the program. Additionally, we collect data about our clients and their neonate's pregnancy and birth outcomes, and have found a modest decrease in pregnancy and birth complications since the onset of our project as well as an increased satisfaction with the birth experience. However, we would love input on how to better evaluate and ensure our data collection is efficient and focused.
We would love to expand our support group capacity and further develop it to include other kinds of skills development, educational sessions, and activities. As it currently stands, the group is an informal but crucial space for our new moms to discuss the challenges they face every day, but the relationships we have built both with the institution and our clients has potential for much more support and education.