Academic journal article Child Welfare

Treating Substance-Using Women and Their Children in Public Housing: Preliminary Evaluation Findings

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Treating Substance-Using Women and Their Children in Public Housing: Preliminary Evaluation Findings

Article excerpt

The Key West Housing Authority created SafePort, a residential substance abuse treatment program within public housing to provide drug treatment to parenting women. All family members-women, children, and significant others-receive comprehensive assessments to determine appropriate therapeutic interventions to resolve their problems. Preliminary evaluation findings suggest that women who participate with their children are more likely to remain drug free than are those who participated without their children.

Recent federal health financing and health care delivery programs have increased access to alcohol and other drug (AOD) abuse treatment programs for low-income women, and have provided intervention and prevention services for their children and families [Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, 1994; Coletti et al. 1992; Hughes et al. 1995; Kronstadt 1991; Metsch et al. 1995, 1999; Rahdert 1996; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 1992a, 1992b]. Demonstration research and service programs have been initiated to verify that comprehensive, long-term residential treatment services for women will decrease alcohol and other drug use, reduce reliance on social and health welfare programs, and improve functioning in specific life-skill and vocational areas. A unique aspect of these programs is the addition of arranged child care, either onsite or offsite, which allows for the provision of intervention and prevention services for the clients' children in a safe and supportive environment. These programs are primarily client-centered; nevertheless, the curricula also include family-focused components, such as parenting classes and family outreach programs.

In general, the most successful long-term benefits occur among clients who complete programs that most closely meet their needs and provide coordinated services such as social and medical care [Cottler & Lyndly 1992; McLellan et al. 1998] and even housing for homeless mothers and their children [Smith et al. 1995]. This trend appears even more pronounced among evaluations of treatment programs for substance-abusing women. A review of recent literature finds that women's treatment program curricula consider the following characteristics and components vital: (1) support for survivors of incest, sexual abuse, and domestic violence [Welle et al. 1998; Cosden & Cortez-Ison 1999]; (2) flexibility to be responsive to feedback from clients and staff [Whiteside-Mandell et al. 1999]; (3) outreach to locate women likely to enter treatment [Howell & Chasnoff 1999]; and (4) intensive case management to link women and their families with social services [Howell & Chasnoff 1999].

Earlier published studies from such women-centered programs have shown generally superior treatment outcomes, such as reduced antisocial behavior, decreased criminal activity, and increased length of stay in treatment [Coletti et al. 1992; Saunders 1992; Stevens et al. 1989; Cuskey et al. 1980]. Stevens and colleagues [1989] and Coletti and associates [1992], referring to two independent programs, reported that programmatic changes addressing women's needs and accommodating children led to better program retention and increased length of stay among women in treatment (see also Hughes et al. [1995]). More recently, an Arkansas program designed to treat drug-using pregnant women found that program participation was associated with a significant reduction in drug use before the birth of the target child, fewer pregnancy complications, and higher birth weights for the targeted children than among women who did not participate [Whiteside-Mandell et al. 1999]. Metsch and colleagues [1999] interviewed women who had attended a family-centered treatment program that provided housing arrangements for the entire family and child care for mothers while they attended treatment activities [cf. Metsch et al. 1995]. Multivariate analyses found that a high school education, treatment duration of more than one year, and participation in the treatment facility's aftercare program were independently and positively related to gainful employment [Metsch et al. …

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