Family Birth Center plans to raise funds for new building, program

Midwives at the center handle about 20 percent of Juneau births - four times the national average

Posted: Sunday, January 05, 2003

The Juneau Family Birth Center, a nonprofit organization that opened in 1998 to provide midwife-assisted births in Juneau, plans a fund-raising drive for a new building in town.

"We're at that point as a nonprofit where it's prudent to own a building rather than lease one," said Kaye Kanne, one of the center's full-time midwives and its director.

The building will be larger than the center's current 3,600-square-foot operating space, but still will be near Bartlett Regional Hospital, said Kanne. No design has been made, but the building will have one additional birthing room and an expanded library and classroom area.

The center has chosen property for the new building but will not release its location until it has been purchased.

In the center's first year of operations, Kanne and one other midwife handled 60 pregnancies at the center. In 2002, the center's three midwives handled 156 pregnancies and offered a variety of classes and parent-training programs.

Midwives at the JFBC handle about 20 percent of the births in Juneau. The national average for midwife births is 5 percent, Kanne said.

"The community is so amazing," she said. "We built the birth center with $35,000 that we raised, and we did it with volunteers."

The new building, which will cost around $1.5 million, will allow the center to handle more pregnancies and increase its library and class offerings to the community.

"We want the kind of space that women and families feel like they can come and hang out and learn," Kanne said.

Kanne and Brittany Kasselder, the center's director of programming and development, plan to raise money for the building this year. Provided the funds are available, construction will begin in early 2004, Kanne said.

The Juneau Family Birth Center in 2000 began its Young Families Program, aimed at helping teen mothers give birth and learn parenting skills. The program, which is free for the teens, involves birthing classes and post-partum support from staff members.

The program is available to all teens, whether they choose to have their babies at the JFBC or at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The Family Birth Center would like to offer its Young Families Program services to all clients, which will cost $250,000 a year, said Kasselder.

The new program will be separate from the Young Families Program, but does not yet have a name. It will be available to clients of the center and patients at Bartlett.

Money for the program will come from grants, from the JFBC's other programs and from community members, Kasselder said. Currently, 350 families in Juneau are donating members of the JFBC.

Having a baby with the assistance of a midwife at the Juneau Family Birth Center costs between $4,000 and $5,000, Kanne said. The center focuses on natural births, emphasizing good nutrition, remaining active during the pregnancy and staying relaxed during a drug-free labor.

"Women are motivated when they're working with midwives to be healthy," said Kanne.

Women who give birth at the center cannot drink or smoke, and must be relatively low-risk for pregnancy complications, Kanne said. Women who do experience complications in labor are sent to Bartlett. Fourteen percent of center's clients delivered their babies at Bartlett in 2002.

Christine Schmid can be reached at

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