Updated resource for parents and caregivers of babies who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol or other drugs

Check out the 3rd edition of Baby Steps: caring for babies with prenatal substance exposure. The newest edition was revised by Charlotte Nelson, Radhika Bhagat, Kate Browning,  and Leslie Mills and was a collaboration of the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Vancouver Aboriginal Child & Family Services Society.

The 92-page handbook is for parents and caregivers of babies who have been prenatally exposed to alcohol or other drugs. It includes information about the daily care of babies aged birth to 12 months who may have been exposed to substances in the womb. Information in the resource was gathered from various sources, including parents, caregivers, professionals and published books and articles. It includes stories from both a birth mom and foster parent. As well, it takes a “no shame, no blame” view of substance use and pregnancy:

“Alcohol and substance misuse is a complex issue. Women who misuse substances often struggle with poverty, homelessness, mental illness, violence, trauma, ill health, and have often experienced abuse and a lack of support and protection from an early age. Women from all social and economic groups may use substances while pregnant. However, women who are poor or visible minorities are more likely to be identified when using substances while pregnant.”

This handbook evolved out of the Safe Babies program developed in Victoria, BC in 1998 by NAT member and UVic professor, Lenora Marcellus, in partnership with Capital Regional Health and the Ministry for Children and Families. The program was introduced in response to a recognized need for highly-skilled caregivers who could be trained specifically in meeting the special needs of substance-exposed infants. The program has since spread across the province. You can learn more about the Safe Babies program in the Vancouver area in this powerpoint presentation.

Further Reading: Academic articles by Lenora Marcellus on perinatal substance use

Marcellus, L. and Nelson, C. (2011). Pilot project to provincial program: Sustaining Safe Babies. Canadian Nurse, 107(9): 28-31. (Free full-text here).

Marcellus, L. (2010). Supporting resilience in foster families: A model for program design that supports recruitment, retention and satisfaction of foster families who care for infants with prenatal substance exposure. Child Welfare, 89(1), 7-29.

Marcellus, L. (2008). (Ad)ministering love: Foster families caring for infants with prenatal substance exposure. Qualitative Health Research, 18(9), 1220-1230.

Marcellus, L. (2007). Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome: Reconstructing the evidence. Neonatal Network, 26(1), 33-40.

Marcellus, L. (2005). The ethics of relation: Moral tension for the public health nurse working with child protection clients. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 51(4), 414-420.

Marcellus, L. (2004). Feminist ethics must inform practice: Interventions with perinatal substance users. Health Care for Women International, 25(8), 730-742.

Marcellus, L. (2004). Foster parents who care for infants with prenatal drug exposure: Support during transition from NICU to home. Neonatal Network, 23(6), 33-42.

Marcellus, L. (2004). Developmental evaluation of the Safe Babies Project: Application of the COECA model. Issues in Comprehensive Pediatric Nursing, 27(2), 107-119.

Marcellus, L. (2000). The Safe Babies project. Canadian Nurse, 96(10), 22-26.