By Justine Patterson
Clinical Director, Family Counselling & Addictions Services
Being a mother to young children is one of the biggest barriers for women wanting to attend residential addiction treatment programs. Mothers are often forced to choose between caring for their children or entering treatment.
Some women fear that their children will be apprehended if they admit to having a substance use problem. Other women report feeling “disloyal” and “guilty” for leaving their children while they focus on themselves. These experiences make it harder for mothers to enter into, and remain in, residential treatment programs.
Research shows that family relationships, particularly those with children, improve the treatment outcomes for women. Accommodating children in treatment programs also helps to motivate mothers toward recovery, decrease the risk of relapse and help women to successfully complete treatment.
Children also benefit from accompanying their mother into treatment. Family-centered treatment programs provide physical and emotional safety for children, while helping to improve the parent-child relationship, parenting and family functioning.
Parental addiction can also lead to an intergenerational cycle of abuse. Children of parents struggling with addiction are at risk of substance abuse themselves. They are also vulnerable to physical and emotional abuse and neglect. Family centered treatment programs help to break this cycle.
Research highlights the need for gender-sensitive, integrated services for mothers with addictions. Unfortunately, only a small number of facilities across Canada are designed to accommodate mothers and their children.
EFry supports a family-centered approach to recovery and identifies the need for this approach to service delivery. For these reasons, EFry’s programs like Transition to New Beginnings include children. Transition to New Beginnings supports and provides short-term housing to women who are pregnant and to mothers with infants.
Early intervention with mothers struggling with substance abuse optimizes children’s development. More specifically, early intervention helps to improve birth outcomes, decreases the impact on child brain development and reduces physical and emotional challenges that are linked to prenatal substance use. Through our programs, women are able to improve not only their lives, but the lives of their children, resulting in healthier futures for families and the communities they live in.