AMCHP 2024 Local Organization Spotlight: United And Guided
April 09, 2024

United and Guided LogoUnited And Guided (UAG) was formed in 2017 when a group of parents and youth advocates decided that they wanted to cultivate positive social change for families in Sacramento, and Placer Counties. UAG envisions a social enterprise that delivers career coaching, restorative justice, mental health peer support, and community development services to serve youth and families who may or may not currently receive Medicaid assistance. Read more about the organization on their website.

AMCHP is excited to welcome attendees to this year’s AMCHP Annual Conference, which will feature a variety of organizations dedicated to improving the health of women, children, and families. We invited United And Guided to answer questions designed to uplift the organization’s important work dedicated to developing economic security and emotional wellness for Black and Brown families and share the connections to our conference. We hope this interview inspires AMCHP 2024 participants to reflect, purposefully partner with, and uplift the work of local organizations in the San Francisco Bay area that are committed to advancing maternal and child health (MCH).

The responses for this interview were kindly provided by LaShanya Breazel, Project Coordinator and Lead Certified Doula, and Richard Johnson, Chief Operating Officer and Lead Certified Doula.

We are excited to welcome team members from United And Guided to the 2024 AMCHP Annual Conference. What elements of AMCHP 2024 are you most excited about? 

United And Guided (UAG), established in 2017 by a collective of parents and youth advocates in Sacramento, has been committed to fostering positive social change specifically tailored to the needs of Black and Brown families. 

The organization’s genesis emerged from a shared understanding among its founding members, many of whom have directly experienced challenges such as trauma, violence, drug addiction, poverty, and incarceration during their youth. UAG serves as a beacon of hope and support for these communities, striving to address systemic issues and provide resources for empowerment and resilience. 

By focusing on MCH programs, the organization aligns itself with the broader mission of uplifting women, children, and families.

The AMCHP Annual Conference serves as a crucial platform for UAG to showcase the impact of its initiatives and to equip participants with tools and resources essential for the development, enhancement, and sustainability of MCH programs and services. 

Through our participation in such professional gatherings, UAG not only advocates for the needs of marginalized communities but also contributes to the broader discourse surrounding MCH, thereby amplifying our impact and advancing our mission of social change and empowerment.

What does it mean to you that the AMCHP Annual Conference is coming to the state of California?  For context, before the COVID-19 pandemic, AMCHP hosted our annual conference in a different state every other year alternating with Washington DC. 

The arrival of the AMCHP Annual Conference in California holds significant meaning in the context of United And Guided’s vision and mission. Given our organization’s focus on addressing the disparities in health, justice, literacy, and economic stability faced by underserved communities, the conference’s presence in California presents a unique opportunity for UAG to engage with a diverse array of stakeholders, policymakers, and experts in MCH. 

By bringing together professionals from across the state and beyond, the conference offers a platform for sharing innovative strategies, best practices, and resources relevant to UAG’s multifaceted approach. Moreover, the conference serves as a forum for networking, collaboration, and learning, enabling UAG to forge partnerships, access new resources, and strengthen its capacity to deliver crucial services such as career coaching, restorative justice, mental health peer support, and community development. The convergence of leaders and advocates at the AMCHP Annual Conference in California thus aligns with UAG’s overarching goal of effecting positive social change and improving outcomes for youth and families in traditionally underserved communities.

How do you see the mission, vision, and values of UAG aligning with those of AMCHP and other similar organizations serving MCH communities across the country? What are some unique ways that UAG operationalizes its mission?

The mission, vision, and values of United And Guided demonstrate a strong alignment with those of AMCHP and other similar organizations serving MCH communities across the country. UAG’s mission to develop economic security and emotional wellness in traditionally marginalized communities through education, service learning, and local ownership echoes the overarching goals of AMCHP and similar organizations, which prioritize promoting the well-being of mothers, children, and families. 

UAG’s unique approach to operationalizing its mission further solidifies this alignment. One distinctive aspect is the utilization of CoEd Doula Services. LaShanya Breazel, Project Coordinator and Lead Certified Doula, and Richard Johnson Chief Operating Officer and Lead Certified Doula lead and provide supportive services to both mothers and fathers before, during, and after pregnancy. 

This approach acknowledges the importance of involving fathers in the birthing process and recognizes the positive impact of inclusive co-parenting on the emotional well-being of children. By offering self-care and emphasizing the inclusion of fathers throughout pregnancy and childbirth, UAG not only supports maternal health but also fosters healthier family dynamics and relationships. 

Additionally, UAG’s provision of Mental Health Peer Support, Conflict Mediation, and Domestic Violence Peer Counseling underscores its commitment to addressing the broader mental health needs of MCH communities. 

By offering postpartum support for up to two years after childbirth, UAG ensures that families receive ongoing assistance during the critical transition period into parenthood. These unique strategies exemplify UAG’s CoEd Doula Team’s dedication to holistic care and community empowerment, mirroring the values and objectives of AMCHP and similar organizations striving to improve MCH outcomes across the country.

This year’s conference theme is Partnering with Purpose. What are some examples of your team (or teams you have worked with) fostering equitable partnerships that share and build power and uplift the voices of the people you serve?

At United And Guided, we prioritize the cultivation of equitable partnerships that not only share and build power but also uplift the voices of the communities we serve. An exemplary illustration of this commitment is our Perinatal Equity Initiative. In this initiative, we collaborate closely with healthcare providers, community organizations, and local leaders to confront and mitigate disparities in MCH outcomes. Through this concerted effort, we strive to ensure that marginalized communities gain access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care, along with vital resources and support services.

Additionally, our partnership with Avengers Food Delivery plays a crucial role in combating food insecurity by delivering nutritious meals to families in need, empowering them to prioritize their health and well-being.

Furthermore, our Doula Internship Program offers training and certification opportunities for aspiring doulas and ensures that expectant parents, particularly those from underserved backgrounds, receive culturally competent and supportive care during childbirth. 

In a similar vein, our Community Gardens Initiative involves collaborative efforts with local residents and organizations to establish and maintain community gardens, promoting both food sovereignty and environmental sustainability.

Moreover, our collaborations with entities such as Kaiser Doula Care and Anthem Contracts (ECM/CS/CHW) allow us to broaden our reach and impact by harnessing additional resources and expertise to better serve our communities. 

Through initiatives like the Million Father March and Domestic Violence Counseling programs, we actively engage fathers and address issues of domestic violence, contributing significantly to the holistic well-being of families. 

Our involvement in Conflict Mediation and participation in community-building initiatives like the Kings And Queens Basketball League and the Tahoe Park Neighborhood Association further exemplifies our dedication to fostering safer and more cohesive communities.

Lastly, through our collaboration with Access Sacramento, we amplify the voices of marginalized communities through various media platforms and storytelling, empowering them to advocate for their needs and rights effectively. These examples underscore our unwavering commitment to nurturing equitable partnerships that prioritize community empowerment, social justice, and collective action, ultimately striving toward a more inclusive and equitable society.

From UAG’s perspective, what would you say to any Title V MCH program staff attending the conference interested in better supporting local organizations like yours dedicated to developing economic security and emotional wellness for Black and Brown families?  

To any Title V MCH program staff attending the conference and interested in better supporting local organizations like ours dedicated to developing economic security and emotional wellness for Black and Brown families, United And Guided would emphasize the pivotal role that organizations such as Black Fathers Inc. play in our communities. At UAG, we are not just a support group; we are a beacon of strength and support for Black fathers in Sacramento and beyond. 

Led by a passionate coalition of dedicated Black fathers, we are committed to fostering a nurturing environment where fathers can thrive, ultimately shaping healthy and empowered families. 

Our collaborative efforts with esteemed partners like the California Department of Public Health, the Perinatal Equity Initiative, and Black Mothers United underscore our dedication to this cause.

I would highlight the unique programs and initiatives we offer, such as our bi-weekly gatherings and listening sessions, which provide a vital platform for fathers to connect, share experiences, and access valuable resources. 

For instance, “Real Pop Talk,” held every second Tuesday of the month, delves into various topics including parenting challenges, infant care, career advancement, and civic leadership. Similarly, our “Young Dads Group,” held every final Thursday of the month, caters specifically to fathers with young children, addressing topics related to social determinants of health and entrepreneurship. These services not only provide essential support but also empower fathers to navigate the complexities of fatherhood and contribute positively to their families and communities.

I would invite Title V MCH program staff to join us in our mission to uplift Black fathers and pave the way for a brighter future. Together, through attentive listening and collaborative action, we can make a lasting impact on generations to come. 

As John Wooden aptly said, “The most important thing in the world is family and love,” and by supporting organizations like UAG, we can help ensure that Black and Brown families have the resources and support they need to thrive.

We are so excited to have Imani Lucas, Executive Director of UAG, as a plenary speaker for AMCHP 2024. Is there anything you would like to share with conference attendees about the work your organization does that may not be touched on in the plenary discussion? 

It is with great enthusiasm that we announce the participation of Imani Lucas, the esteemed Executive Director of UAG, as a featured plenary speaker for AMCHP 2024. 

With a distinguished career spanning over 30 years in Family Development Services, Imani brings a wealth of expertise and insight to the conference. 

Holding a Master of Science in Organizational Management from the esteemed Peace Corps Masters International Program, and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, Imani’s educational background reflects a deep commitment to understanding the intricate dynamics of societal structures and organizational effectiveness. 

Beyond his academic achievements, Imani’s professional affiliations further highlight his dedication to community empowerment and advocacy. Notably, his involvement with the Sacramento Minority Youth Violence Prevention Collective underscores his commitment to addressing pressing social issues at the grassroots level, while his role on the Executive Committee of the California Association of Peer Professionals speaks to his leadership in fostering collaboration and innovation within the field. 

As we eagerly anticipate Imani’s plenary address, we invite conference attendees to explore additional facets of our organization’s work that may not be fully captured in the session. This inquiry opens the door for deeper engagement and dialogue, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the collective efforts driving positive change in our communities.