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4th in Series: First-ever FASD Prevention Plenary at the 7th International Conference on FASD: PART 3

“Research on Reaching and Engaging Women and Children using Approaches that are Theory Based, and have an Equity Lens” – Janet Christie, Addiction Recovery Coach, Canada; Anne Russell of the Russell Family Fetal Alcohol Disorders, Australia; Pippa Williams of UK and European Mothers Network-FASD; Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz of the Mothercraft/Breaking the Cycle, Canada

L to R: Janet Christie, Anne Russell, Pippa Williams, Margaret Leslie, Dr. Mary Motz with Dr. Nancy Poole, Prevention Plenary Co-Lead

One of the highlights of the first Plenary on Prevention at the 2017 International Conference on FASD, was the presentation on supporting women and families dealing with issues of alcohol and FASD.

Janet Christie, Anne Russell and Pippa Williams are three birth mothers who have created supports for women and families dealing with issues of alcohol or FASD. Their experiences have informed and are reflected in many reports and studies: that no woman intends to harm her child; that there are multiple and complex issues that affect women at risk for alcohol-exposed pregnancies; and, that fragmented and inflexible services make it difficult for women and families to get help.

Stigma is one of the biggest barriers affecting access to services. Addiction is still viewed by many as a moral failing rather than a public health issue. Meanwhile the alcohol industry normalizes and glamourizes drinking to women through targeted marketing campaigns. Women are often met with judgement and blame, and fear losing their children if they seek help for an addiction. As well, mothers whose children have FASD need support in dealing with their feelings of guilt and with parenting their children. Often women have complex and intersecting issues, including FASD, that affect their ability to accept support. While these three mothers/advocates are from different countries, they all identify these same issues, and call for programs with wrap-around services to support women and their families.

Margaret Leslie and Dr. Mary Motz then described such a program – Breaking the Cycle in Toronto and its mother-child study “Focus on Relationships”. Based upon well-researched attachment theory, the program focuses on the mother-child dyad during the pre- and post-partum period and on building trust, safety and relational capacity. Relationships extend to staff and service providers. Program efforts to develop collaborative relationships between child welfare, addiction recovery and mental health service agencies have successfully created an integrated and flexible program with the goal of supporting the whole family.

 

For more on these topics, see earlier posts:

The Mother-Child Study: Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women, March 18, 2015
Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Women Who Use Substances: What Communities are Doing to Help, October 1, 2012
Herway Home ‘One-Stop Access’ Program in Victoria Set to Open, May 20, 2012
“New Choices” for Pregnant and Parenting Women with Addictions, January 9, 2012
Toronto Centre for Substance Use in Pregnancy (T-CUP), December 19, 2011
Clinical Webcast on Breaking the Cycle Program: September 20, 2011, August 2, 2011
Why Would She Drink? Winnipeg Free Press Articles Explore Drinking during Pregnancy, April 4, 2011

Cover Mother-Child-Study_Report_2014

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.

Profile of BTC families

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

Read the report, take a look at summary fact sheets and learn more about the Breaking the Cycle program at www.mothercraft.ca.

fact sheet 9

Overview: Four Levels of FASD Prevention

Information Sheet: What Men Can Do To Prevent FASD

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