Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Open Letter to Willow Tree Family Center

For all those living in and around the Lansing area, a new proposal is coming to town.  A group of parents is rallying and fund raising to open the Willow Tree Family Center, whose mission is:

     "Our mission at Willow Tree Family Center is to grow strong, empowered families by 
      providing support groups and educational services for pregnancy, birth and beyond. 
      By focusing on the family as a system and providing access to evidence-based 
      resources and holistic care, we will support healthy, informed, confident families. 
     Like a willow tree, our center will provide a calming atmosphere to grow strong, 
      flourishing families that support each other."

Sounds like a promising prospect, and sounds a bit familiar...especially when you read the board profiles and realize that nearly every member was affiliated with the Greenhouse Birth Center in some way.  They value "education & informed consent" and "evidence-based" care.  (I'm using quotes here because those terms are subject to definition.)  

While the notion of such a central place to support families in pregnancy, birth and beyond is exciting, it brings with it great responsibility.  It's a responsibility that was severely lacking at Greenhouse, and we sincerely hope this new project can take steps to ensure safety in the resources and care they are offering.   

An Open Letter:                                                                                                        April 24, 2013

Dear Willow Tree Family Center,

It has recently been brought to our attention that you’re aiming to open a new “Family Center” in the Lansing area, aimed at fostering community and offering families resources related to birth, pregnancy, and parenting.  While the prospect sounds enticing, we are concerned for the message you will be sending to the larger community about the safety of the care providers you intend to host at your facility.  Taking on this position demands great responsibility. 

We are writing to ask that you consider the necessity of implementing strict screening measures, and clear criteria for the “care providers” you intend to host at your new center.  It would not be ethical or responsible to imply that the care providers hosting appointments at your new facility are safe, or reliable without doing so.  Many, if not all, of the midwives suggested as potential staff are also those who have been reported to our advocacy group as being involved in extremely dangerous care practices, infant deaths, and injuries.  Some have multiple sanctions or pending sanctions with the state.  Others have a long reputation of dangerous practices.  Having had a good experience does not negate the possibility that others have been harmed.

We also ask that you gather references from families that demonstrate varied perspectives about the care they received, so that prospective families aren’t only presented with biased references, and a false sense of security.   This includes references for midwives, doulas, and childbirth educators.  Unfortunately, our advocacy group often hears only the sad stories, but they are nonetheless important.  Many of the families that report to us prefer to remain anonymous, but we’d be happy to provide any contact or reference we can that would enable new families to better know who it is they are hiring for their care. 

We absolutely appreciate the value in a community resource hub that will enable families to be “fully informed” and seek the care they choose.  Part of being fully informed includes knowing ALL sides of a care giver’s practice history.  We support what you’re aiming for, and hope that there is sincerity in your aim to provide support for genuinely balanced perspectives in pregnancy, birth, and parenthood.  Placing yourselves as a collective group, in association with questionable or dangerous care providers, will simultaneously put you in a liable position for the care you represent.  If you aim to be a credible, long term resource for this community, you will carefully consider who it is you allow to be affiliated with your group. 

We hope your future endeavors demonstrate a model of safety and integrity, and hope that you fully understand the magnitude of responsibility that comes providing truly balanced resources for a community. 


The Team at Safer Midwifery for Michigan

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