Mission & History
PALS Doulas is a welcoming and relevant resource for all birth doulas in the greater Puget Sound region, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or socio-economic status. We build community, provide mentorship, and offer educational opportunities to support our members. PALS cultivates a positive view of doulas and increases the community’s awareness of the value of doula support.
PALS began in Seattle, Washington, in the late 1980’s. Around this time, research discovered the positive impact of ‘labor support companions’ for pregnant and laboring families. Given this new research, the Seattle Midwifery School sponsored a Labor Support Course to start a formalized training of labor support companions (doulas). Penny Simkin started a membership group to support this new category of birth professionals in 1988. This group held monthly meetings and provided local referrals for birth doulas. Within three years, this group blossomed into a registered not-for-profit corporation in Washington State. PALS’ doulas were recognized as public health workers by many organizations in the greater Seattle area, and their services were covered through contracts with the state. With the help of many volunteers, PALS created by-laws, our Scope of Practice and Code of Ethics, and organizational goals along with a certification process and apprenticeship program.
In 1994, PALS held the Warmest Welcome Conference, bringing prominent birth professionals to Seattle from all over the world. This conference was the beginning of PALS supporting its members by bringing leaders in the birth world to The Pacific Northwest, to support and educate our local doulas. In 1998, PALS completed a three-year long restructuring process with a new mission statement, having changed from a not-for-profit organization to a trade organization focused on supporting local doulas. In celebration of PALS’ 10th anniversary, the Penny Simkin Scholarship Program was created in honor of our founder.
Fifteen years after its creation, PALS had ten board members and over 200 member doulas serving families in Washington State. In 2007, PALS co-hosted the First Annual Northwest Doula Conference in Seattle. PALS volunteers continued to pour their creative efforts into the organization. Within the next two years, PALS announced an official name change from PALS to PALS Doulas, and presented a new logo to accompany the name change. The following year, PALS created and implemented a recertification program and began recertifying their doulas. PALS volunteers also created an online referral system that year.
In 2011, members of the PALS Board of Directors created a hospital presentation outlining the value of PALS certified doula support and presented this to various hospitals in the greater Seattle area. This presentation was well received by the facilities to which it was presented, and was a great example of how PALS volunteers fulfilled our mission of promoting the doula profession within our community. This was the beginning of PALS’ Hospital Ambassador Program.
Due to the dedication of some PALS Board of Directors members, cultural competency and awareness within PALS became a huge priority. This resulted in the creation of PALS Ending Racism Committee (PERC) to address not only the inequity in maternity care provided to minorities in this country, but also to address the lack of diversity with the PALS organization. PALS Doulas hired an outside consultant to form The Race Equity Tool and educate the board, and later the members, on these important topics.
In 2014, PALS Doulas was struggling financially and suffering from a lack of volunteers. The Board moved to transition from a working board to a governing board, promoting the current office manager to a newly created position of Program Director to take on the work the board was doing. The motion was approved by the membership. This was a short-lived solution, as financial struggles led PALS Doulas to discontinue the Program Director position later that year. This was a challenging time for PALS Doulas and there was discussion of closing the organization entirely.
The out-going board helped a new board transition in and laid the groundwork for the new board to tackle these monumental challenges. In the first year of transition, the new board revamped the Advanced Doula Trainings, Monthly Meetings, membership, and certification program. They also hosted the Northwest Doula Conference, and for the first time in years PALS had positive cash flow to fund programs and grow.
Today, the PALS Board of Directors consists of six to ten members, and we are an all-volunteer organization. We strive to be transparent and fiscally responsible, prioritizing the needs of our members and the greater birth community, and promoting birth doulas in our local community. PALS Doulas has risen like a phoenix, stronger than ever, and we are excited to see what more we can accomplish in the years to come.