The Mother-Child Study: Evaluating Treatments for Substance-Using Women

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

fact sheet 9

Illuminating Invisibilities: Working with Women whose Lives have been Impacted by Homelessness, Violence, Mental Health Issues and Substance Use

International Women’s Day Event – March 8, 2013

purple umbrella

The Health Equity Office and Human Resources at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto is hosting a 90 minute International Women’s Day educational event: Illuminating Invisibilities: Working with Women whose Lives have been Impacted by Homelessness, Violence, Mental Health Issues and Substance Use.

The forum will bring together addiction and mental health service providers, allied professionals, community members and women with lived experience to:

  • Identify populations of women that are invisible and have been impacted by homelessness, violence, trauma, mental health issues and substance use including newcomers and women from diverse communities
  • Highlight barriers to access to the mental health, addictions and social service system for women that have been impacted by homelessness, violence, mental health issues and substance use
  • Identify strategies for creating connection with all of these communities of women that are not accessing services

Presenters include:

  • Rani Srivastava, Chief of Nursing and Professional Practice at CAMH – Opening Remarks
  • Eva Scott, Community Outreach Worker, Peer Support Program, Sistering
  • Sheryl Lindsay, Executive Director – Sistering 
  • Mirna Paz, Interpreter, Barbra Schlifer Clinic
  • Amanda Dale, Executive Director, Barbra Schlifer Clinic
  • Ann Pottinger, Discipline Chief, Nursing with Professional Practice and Acting Director of Teaching Excellence and Innovation – Moderator

Eva Scott and Sheryl Lindsay are from Sistering, a women’s agency serving homeless, marginalized and low-income women in Toronto. Mirna Paz and Amanda Dale are from the Barbara Schlifer Clinic in Toronto which offers legal help, counselling and language interpretation to women who have experienced violence.

The event will be held on March 8, 2013 – 11 am to 12:30 pm in Toronto, Ontario. View the flyer here.

For more on homelessness and FASD prevention, see earlier posts:

For more on violence against women and FASD prevention, see recent post: