What would you do if you were a women struggling with drug and/or alcohol use, poverty, inadequate housing/homelessness, mental illness, violence and trauma – and were also pregnant?
In 2006 a committee of over 30 experts, advocates, educators and community organizations came together to research and develop an appropriate service model for women in this very situation. Their solution: HerWay Home.
HerWay Home’s model is based on successful programs in other communities where services are provided through a one-stop shop where women can access drop in support groups and access to medical and social supports.
The HerWay Home model is designed to improve birth outcomes and women’s health; decrease isolation; increase mother-baby attachment; decrease parenting stress; increase completion of drug and alcohol treatment and support maintenance of recovery from problematic substance use; increase access to safe, affordable housing and reduce homelessness; increase nutritional status; and increase the likelihood of women and their children being able to live safely together as a family unit. The immediate and longer term cost savings to the health and social service system can be significant (with reductions in babies needing to spend time in the neo-natal intensive care unit, reducing the numbers of children in care, and preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder). The effects on the families include an increase in attachment and secure parenting along with a corresponding increase in positive mental health.
Since opening in January 2013, 20 women, 7 partners, and 11 children have connected to HerWay Home. They estimate that they will work with 50 to 75 families in the first year of operation, increasing to 100+ over years two and three.
We asked the HerWay Home team about some of their successes and challenges, here’s their response:
“Families being reunified (children returned to their mothers from being in care); breastfeeding re-established; babies staying with their mothers (not being apprehended in the first place); supportive family plans being drafted with social workers; successful delivery of healthy babies at full term; increased community connections for women – especially linking them to housing and housing supports.
A lack of safe, affordable housing is an issue for all of the women we have connected with and we are striving to link them with existing resources in the community to access housing. Eventually our hope is to work in partnership with a housing provider to develop safe, transitional housing for women and their children.”
For more information: HerWay Home