RICHMOND — The Virginia Department of Corrections (VADOC) has been recognized for its efforts to support employees who are new mothers. The Virginia Department of Health has named the VADOC a Gold-level Virginia Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace.
The award was given through the Virginia Breastfeeding Friendly Workplace Recognition Program, designed to recognize businesses who are providing specific support in the workplace to their employees. The program recognizes workplaces for meeting lactation program best practices and establishing breastfeeding friendly environments. The recognition program is a partnership between the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and the Virginia Breastfeeding Coalition (VBC). Participants were evaluated and recognized for three levels of breastfeeding support: Gold, Silver, and Bronze.
The VADOC provides clean, private, secure, locked accommodations for new mothers at each of its facilities, including prisons, probation and parole offices, and other agency locations.
In 2019, VDH joined forces with VBC, Child Care Aware Virginia, and Virginia Early Childhood Foundation to create the workplace recognition program, which is designed to elevate knowledge of the health, economic, and societal benefits of breastfeeding.
“While the decision to breastfeed or formula feed is a personal one based on many different factors, research shows that breastfeeding and human milk provide general health, growth, and developmental advantages while significantly decreasing the risk of infant mortality and many acute and chronic diseases,” said Governor Ralph Northam in a letter to employees marking Breastfeeding Awareness Month in August.
From providing educational training about breastfeeding support policy and guidelines to supervisors and managers, to providing private areas free from intrusion with a chair and table, access to electricity and a nearby working sink, and refrigerators for breast milk storage, the VADOC earned the gold standard recognition by earning 32 or more points from the applicable criteria set out for the award. A bronze award goes to those employers with 6-14 points, a silver award to those earning 15-31 points, and a gold award goes to those earning 32 or more points.
“As a public safety agency, the Virginia Department of Corrections seeks to promote safe and healthy environments at all its locations for all its employees, and that includes supporting the health of new mothers and babies. We are honored to receive this recognition,” said Lucinda Childs-White, VADOC Director of Human Resources.
In a letter announcing the VADOC recognition, State Health Commissioner M. Norman Oliver stated, “By receiving this recognition, you have demonstrated that your workplace is dedicated to supporting mothers and families in meeting their breastfeeding goals, especially as they return to the workplace.”