Specialized, Single-Access Perinatal Community Programs in Canada

Members of our Network Action Team on FASD prevention have recently developed a 12-page overview of community programs in Canada that support pregnant and early parenting women who use alcohol and other substances.

Since the 1990s, several communities in Canada have developed specialized programs  to address barriers to accessing prenatal services that exist for many women who use substances. These barriers include:

  • fear of losing custody of children;
  • fear of forced treatment or criminal prosecution;
  • lack of treatment readiness;
  • coexisting mental illness;
  • guilt, denial and/or embarrassment regarding their substance use;
  • and lack of transportation and/or child care.

These programs have been developed with an awareness of how substance misuse is often intertwined with other issues such as homelessness, gender-based violence, involvement with the law, loss of cultural connectedness, and food insecurity.

This overview describes the development of four programs in Canada:

  1. Maxxine Wright Place Project for High Risk Pregnant and Early Parenting Women in Surrey, British Columbia
  2. H.E.R. (Healthy, Empowered, Resilient) Pregnancy Program (Streetworks Program) in Edmonton, Alberta
  3. HerWay Home in Victoria, British Columbia
  4. The Mothering Project in Winnipeg, Manitoba

The document describes how the programs started, how they evolved to meet the unique needs of each community, and describes the research evidence that shows why they work.

If you take a look at the Four-Part Model of FASD Prevention below (see Poole, 2008 here for more on this model), you’ll notice that these type of programs fall under levels 3 and 4.

The third level of FASD prevention is about the provision of recovery and support services that are specialized, culturally specific and accessible for women with alcohol problems and related mental health concerns. These services are needed not only for pregnant women, but also before pregnancy and throughout the childbearing years.

The fourth level of FASD prevention is about supporting new mothers to maintain healthy changes they have been able to make during pregnancy. Postpartum support for mothers who were not able to make significant changes in their substance use during pregnancy is also vital. This will assist them to continue to improve their health and social support, as well as the health of their children. Early interventions for children who potentially have FASD are also important at this stage.”

You can download “Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help” from either the Canada FASD Research Network website here or the the BC Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health website here.

For more on this type of community program, see previous posts: