The Congressional Baby Caucus (co-chaired by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Congressman Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN)) sponsored a briefing to focus on the drug impact of opioids on that population.
Highlighting a recent report in the New York Times, Congresswoman DeLauro said that the solution could not be to tear families apart and punish them but to look at policy and practice options to address the issue and the safety and well-being of children.
The briefing explored the impact of the opioid epidemic on babies, the role of the child welfare system, the importance of maintaining the parental bond throughout treatment, and successful strategies to assist the parents as they navigate recovery and build their abilities to be active caregivers. Speakers included Dr. Kaitlan Baston, Cooper University Health Care, Judge Joseph Seidlin, Iowa District Court 5C, James Anderson, the Family Resource Agency, and Dr. Rebecca Vivrette, University of Maryland School of Medicine.
According to HHS, every six minutes an infant or toddler is removed from his or her parents’ care due to abuse and neglect and sent to live in a new home. In Iowa, Judge Seidlin dependency caseload includes randomly selected families with children birth to age three. Through federal funding from the Quality Improvement Center for Research-Based Infant-Toddler Court Teams (QIC-CT) funding was provided to establish a Safe Babies Court Team Approach to achieve timely and nurturing permanent placement of infants and toddlers in foster care. Judge Seidlin acknowledges that out of the twelve Safe Babies Court Team core components four are essential: judicial leadership, local community coordinator, the convening of key stakeholders, and training and technical assistance. In the beginning, he realized that it was no way that the court and child welfare systems could help families if they were ignorant of the issues.
Dr. Baston emphasized the importance of taking care of pregnant women through engaging moms and understanding the illness and evidence-based treatment options. She stated that we must reach pregnant women and to recommend that we institute universal screenings. A multi-generational approach that is family-centered is important for supporting vulnerable families dealing with addictions.
According to Dr Vivrette, three-fourths of women entering treatment for substance abuse have children under the age of 18. She went on to highlight some evidence-based practices specifically for children with trauma and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). Practices that have been effective for supporting women and babies are Mothering from the Inside Out, BRIGHT (Building Resilience Through Intervention: Growing Healthier Together), and NESST (Newborn Exposed to Substances: Support and Therapy). To learn more about the Safe Babies Court Teams approach, visit www.qicct.org.