Candelen New Program Announcement: NewRoots

February 1, 2024  |  Published by

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Funded by Bezos Family Foundation and the HS Lopez Family Foundation, Candelen is proud to be launching a new prenatal program in Arizona called NewRoots. NewRoots was developed in response to the alarming rates of maternal and infant mortality in the state of AZ, especially in marginalized communities.

According to the March of Dimes, the preterm birth rate among babies born to Black birthing people is 1.4 times higher than the rate among all other babies and similarly, infant mortality is 2.1 times higher. Indigenous women, according to the AZ Department of Health Services are four times more likely to die from birth-related complications than their white counterparts.

We have the ability to do something spectacular in this space to save the lives of women and their newborns. We have spent three years researching this area, talking to stakeholders and providers, and building a program design that does not exist in Arizona.

Kavita Bernstein
Vice President of Programs and Impact

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Candelen’s answer to stark statistics around maternal health is the launch of NewRoots. In Arizona, if you are in a high-risk category for pregnancy and delivery, you do not have access to a doula unless you have the means to afford one
(generally upwards of $1200). In addition, most parenting programs begin when a family’s baby is earthside. NewRoots turns the system of care and support around by pairing pregnant families with a community-based doula that is cross-trained as a parent educator as early as possible in an individual’s pregnancy. This approach focuses on providing individualized relationship-based support and education
through one Doula, versus multiple helping professionals. “What we heard over and over again as we met with community partners and those offering doula services nationally, is that the system of care loses families between provider handoffs. We
wanted to ensure there is one support system who builds solid long-lasting relationships which foster growth and community” says Director of NewRoots, Ruth Ray.

The NewRoots Doula will support pregnant individuals to attend all of their prenatal appointments and will provide parent education for the pregnant family while their baby is in utero, focusing on the parent-infant attachment. Doulas will prepare and be present with pregnant families during labor and delivery and provide postpartum medical advocacy when new moms are experiencing symptoms of adverse health outcomes.

As a mother and doula herself, Ashleigh Leonard, who is the Manager of NewRoots states “postpartum is such a delicate phase of parenthood that comes with so many emotions. Our hope is to ease the transition by providing a supportive and safe space as these attachments are being built.”

Doulas will continue to be paired with families providing postpartum doula care and parent education through until a child reaches their 2nd birthday. The program will incorporate and teach families how to participate in easy at-home activities with their children that bolster early childhood development using the a program of

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Candelen's NewRoots program is free to enrolled families and aims to provide support and services to those who otherwise might not have an opportunity to benefit from a doula home visitor that can also provide parenting support.

NewRoots is launching in Maricopa County with a focus on rural areas where there is limited access to birthing Centers, OBGYNs, and midwives. Families and community organizations seeking to partner are encouraged to outreach Candelen through calling 480-829-0500 (ext. 1216) and asking to speak to Ashleigh Leonard.


Ashleigh Leonard has been described as having the warmth and comfort of freshly baked bread. She is the mom of three; two tween boys and a very strong, opinionated 2-year-old girl. Ashleigh is always up for a coffee date, road trip, or just a good conversation.

Ruth Ray

Ruth Ray has worked with Candelen for over 10 years in Quality First Coaching, where she has held various positions. She currently serves as Director of Early Learning Professional Support. Ruth has two daughters - an 8-year-old and a toddler - and has lived in Phoenix for the past 11 years.

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Shannon Bentley As a doula, I embrace and celebrate all identities, family compositions, and belief systems. My role involves supporting families, not only by guiding them through the challenges that may arise, but also by encouraging them to cherish the beauty of this vulnerable experience. I am so excited to be joining this team at Candelen, and look forward to building relationships with everyone in the communities we will serve!

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