Mothercraft’s Breaking the Cycle (BTC) in Toronto is one of Canada’s first prevention and early intervention programs for pregnant women and mothers who are substance-involved and their young children.
The program’s goal is to reduce risk and enhance the development of substance-exposed children by addressing maternal substance use problems and the mother-child relationship.
Historically, treatments for substance use tended to minimize gender roles and, in particular, mothering relationships. Contemporary integrated treatments for substance use often emphasize gender-specific issues within the treatment setting, such as trauma (historical and/or present, including domestic violence), depression and other mental health concerns, and adoption of harm reduction goals with respect to substance use. Contemporary integrated treatments have also evolved to acknowledge the importance of the mothering role for women.
This evaluation report described the findings of the Mother-Child Study. The study evaluated and compared the Breaking the Cycle program model of relationship-focused service delivery and its effects on mothers and children with a group of similar women who received a more standard contemporary integrated treatment for substance use issues.
The findings of the Mother-Child Study highlight the critical role of relational-focused interventions in supporting change for substance-involved mothers and their children.
Program features that made a difference for women’s outcomes included:
- Supporting women to learn about relationships in a number of different ways
- Making the focus on relationships an integral part of substance use treatment
- Recognizing that increased relationship capacity with their children enriches the lives of women
Program features that made a difference for children’s outcomes included:
- Providing integrated early intervention programs
- Providing comprehensive, multimethod assessments
- Prioritizing early intervention services which support the mother-child relationship
Importantly, the study found that children, even those exposed to substances during pregnancy, do better when mothers have relationship-focused intervention