About Families gives new meaning to the phrase, “bringing up baby.” That’s because the main goal of the ever-ambitious nonprofit is to educate families on the emotional, mental, and physical experiences involved during all facets of pregnancy – even early parenthood and postpartum.

We offer a lot of valuable programs,” says About Families founder and director Joanna Boles Whitlow of the organization’s various classes, groups, and events. “But we also try to create a community for the professionals that help families. We train and certify doulas. We’re collaborating with the hospital right now and bringing in a speaker to teach some of the nurses and other birth professionals about breastfeeding or offering continuing education.

It’s a commendable effort across the board and it’s all part of Whitlow’s unique creative wheelhouse. Originally from Santa Barbara, Whitlow moved to the Valley nearly 20 years ago, before launching About Families in 2012. All this after she became a mother and saw a greater need in the community. 

“After moving to the desert, I was desperately seeking my people, and hoping to find friends and community,” she says. “I didn’t have any family out here and that’s where About Families came from. It was basically about the parents’ need for other parents, so we start prenatally.”

She became an international board-certified lactation consultant in 2012, which further fueled her career as a professional birth and postpartum doula and childbirth educator. Beyond her work in About Families, Whitlow is a mother of four boys and the director of For Moms and Babies, a valuable resource and education service providing information, services, and education for pregnancy.

As a recent grantee of the Creative Corps Inland SoCal Grant through the Inland Empire Community Foundation, About Families was able to help launch About Families Presents: Creative Exchange Studio. Through various 10-week classes, participants will learn basic clay skills before moving on to design and create a serving dish to be used for a cherished family recipe. 

The twist? Two generations from one family collaborate. 

The idea is to unite different generations, have them engage in the artistic process, and ultimately realize the deeper meaning of generational bonds, the depth of heritage, and, in some ways, how creativity can be a stellar connector. 

The activity is led by art educator/potter Lauren Karle.

​“It’s an incredible grant,” Whitlow explains. “Eight different families are in it. They will learn how to make ceramic dishes, and then have a potluck where everyone makes a family recipe. It’s creating connections through art with family, but really, it’s all about play and art, cooking, and housing our family tradition, just because so much of that is kind of going away.”

Creating connections and sharing information is a key component of the organization’s work.

I strongly believe that it takes a village, and About Family’s goal is to be the hub of the village and help bring the village together,” she says.

To that end, About Families offers various classes for individuals and couples expecting babies.

“After people have their babies, we offer support groups, or breastfeeding help, or parenting classes,” Whitlow says. “It’s all about educating, empowering, and connecting parents to have a healthier family life.”

The nonprofit’s annual Fall Festival at the Forum at Empire Polo Club in Indio also stands out. The festive and informative event, which has run successfully for 16 years now, was designed to raise awareness about various programs and family-oriented services available in Coachella Valley and its surrounding areas.

Additionally, other noteworthy classes and events include “Birth Circle: Pregnancy Support and Preparing for Birth,” which is held weekly via Zoom, and “Dad & Partner Support Group,” which has been a valuable service for fathers.

“Moving forward,” Whitlow says, “we’re excited to get the word out about all the things we do so we can support the community even more.”

Learn more at aboutfamiliesinc.com.

This story originally appeared in the Desert Sun January 2024. 

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