CHD on Babies Victimized by Heroin Epidemic


One of the evils of drug addiction is that more and more babies are being born dependent on the drugs their mothers took during pregnancy.

Those infants can also face sickening withdrawal symptoms.

Western Mass News Reporter Ray Hershel dug deeper into the process moms have to go through when they’re pregnant and hooked on drugs.

As more and more women fall victim to prescription painkillers and heroin addiction, we must not forget the most helpless among us, the babies born to addicted mothers.

“I became a heroin addict and it kept getting worse and worse,” said Julie

Today, Julie is the mother of a beautiful 9-month old baby girl Giselle.

The road to being pregnant and addicted to heroin was not easy, but thanks to Julie’s parents who got her help, and the Center for Human Development’s Early Intervention, Julie has a bright future.

She received methadone treatment while pregnant to help her withdraw from heroin.

“She was born addicted. I was on methadone then and it took her three and a half weeks to come down from it.”

The Center for Human Development said methadone treatment is preferable to having the mom stay hooked on heroin.

“If they’re addicted to heroin, then they use methadone to continue treatment so that babies are not affected from abruptly stopping the heroin use,” said Kereen Rennis.

Kereen Rennis is the clinical director for the Two Rivers Recovery Center for women.

And while medical treatment is available to help, there is no substitute for mother-baby bonding.

“They’re their best medicine for their baby. They’re the best treatment for them.

The Two Rivers Recovery Home contains 25 beds for women and their infants up to a year old.

24-hour on site staffing allows the best treatment for the women there.

“Women are coming into treatment with the hopes of re-unifying or having their children with them to receive support to enable them to refrain from use of illicit substances,” said Katherine Cook.

Katherine Cook, the Vice President for Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services at the Center for Human Development said that through counselling and support, the goal is for the women to live independently and raise their children in a healthy environment.

“We’re looking at the individual as a whole person and trying to figure out not only what’s happening with them physically, but also psychologically and spiritually.”

She adds that it’s so important to remove the stigma of addiction and therefore treat it as a disease and not a choice.

There are many success stories at CHD.

Julie is just one example of the lives turned around.

She has some advice for other women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids.

“The number one thing is to get off the street and get on methadone. Without that you have no chance.”

And because of the chance she was given by the Center for Human Development, Julie looks to the future with optimism and hope for herself and Giselle.

“It’s like the best possible outcome. They taught me a lot. I learned to live sober and I also learned how to be a mother, and both those things came through CHD.”

In an earlier report, we took you to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center where about 10 percent of their babies are born drug dependent because of their mother’s addiction.

I’ve talked to both addicted moms and medical experts for our reports, and one common theme stood out.

The moms should realize there is help and services in the community to treat them and their babies.

And there is hope for addicted moms no matter how dark the future can look at times.

Copyright 2017 (Western Mass News)  Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved. Video and story orignally appeared on Western Mass News, February 7, 2017: http://www.westernmassnews.com/story/34451754/chd-speaks-on-help-for-babies-victimized-by-the-heroin-epidemic

Pregnant and Hooked on Drugs

One of the evils of drug addiction is that more and more babies are being born dependent on the drugs their mothers took during pregnancy.

Those infants can also face sickening withdrawal symptoms.

Western Mass News Reporter Ray Hershel dug deeper into the process moms have to go through when they’re pregnant and hooked on drugs.

As more and more women fall victim to prescription painkillers and heroin addiction, we must not forget the most helpless among us, the babies born to addicted mothers.

“I became a heroin addict and it kept getting worse and worse,” said Julie

Today, Julie is the mother of a beautiful 9-month old baby girl Giselle.

The road to being pregnant and addicted to heroin was not easy, but thanks to Julie’s parents who got her help, and the Center for Human Development, Julie has a bright future.

She received methadone treatment while pregnant to help her withdraw from heroin.

“She was born addicted. I was on methadone then and it took her three and a half weeks to come down from it.”

The Center for Human Development said methadone treatment is preferable to having the mom stay hooked on heroin.

“If they’re addicted to heroin, then they use methadone to continue treatment so that babies are not affected from abruptly stopping the heroin use,” said Kereen Rennis.

Kereen Rennis is the clinical director for the Two Rivers Recovery Center for women.

And while medical treatment is available to help, there is no substitute for mother-baby bonding.

“They’re their best medicine for their baby. They’re the best treatment for them.

The Two Rivers Recovery Home contains 25 beds for women and their infants up to a year old.

24-hour on site staffing allows the best treatment for the women there.

“Women are coming into treatment with the hopes of re-unifying or having their children with them to receive support to enable them to refrain from use of illicit substances,” said Katherine Cook.

Katherine Cook, the Vice President for Adult Mental Health and Substance Use Services at the Center for Human Development said that through counselling and support, the goal is for the women to live independently and raise their children in a healthy environment.

“We’re looking at the individual as a whole person and trying to figure out not only what’s happening with them physically, but also psychologically and spiritually.”

She adds that it’s so important to remove the stigma of addiction and therefore treat it as a disease and not a choice.

There are many success stories at CHD.

Julie is just one example of the lives turned around.

She has some advice for other women who are pregnant and addicted to opioids.

“The number one thing is to get off the street and get on methadone. Without that you have no chance.”

And because of the chance she was given by the Center for Human Development, Julie looks to the future with optimism and hope for herself and Giselle.

“It’s like the best possible outcome. They taught me a lot. I learned to live sober and I also learned how to be a mother, and both those things came through CHD.”

In an earlier report, we took you to the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit at Baystate Medical Center where about 10 percent of their babies are born drug dependent because of their mother’s addiction.

I’ve talked to both addicted moms and medical experts for our reports, and one common theme stood out.

The moms should realize there is help and services in the community to treat them and their babies.

And there is hope for addicted moms no matter how dark the future can look at times.

Copyright 2017 (Western Mass News)  Meredith Corporation.  All rights reserved.

Early Intervention Helps Infants and Young Children Who Have Developmental Delays

James Moriarty is the kind of child parents describe as “all boy.” He’s a rough-and-tumble, two-and-a-half-year-old who’s constantly into something. His parents, Brennan Moriarty and Brianne Jones of East Longmeadow, are completely candid about the challenges they are facing as parents.

“We didn’t plan on having a child and honestly we weren’t really well-equipped to be parents,” said Moriarty. “That said, Brianne and I love James and we would not change him for the world. But in terms of his development, he’d been falling short.”

“James was easy to schedule when he was a baby,” recalled Jones. “He went to bed well and he was a good eater, at least until he realized he had choices! At about 18 months, he should have had a vocabulary of 18 to 22 words, but he didn’t even have three. It was frustrating that he couldn’t communicate and didn’t seem to try. He started having behavior issues. We are the first to say we didn’t know what we were doing, so we asked for help. Our pediatrician referred us to CHD.”

Moriarty and Jones brought their son to meet Karen Wheeler, who Moriarty respectfully calls the area’s “grandmother of Early Intervention.”  Wheeler, Early Intervention Developmental Specialist/Service Coordinator for CHD Early Intervention, has invested decades in a career spanning various roles in child development and education. CHD Early Intervention works with infants and children from birth to three years who have, or are at risk, for developmental delays.

“Brianne and I, we didn’t know what to do, but Karen does and she cares,” said Moriarty. “She got everything rolling and arranged an evaluation for James right away.” A CHD Early Intervention team can assess a child’s abilities and, if indicated, will develop an individualized plan to promote development of play, movement, social behavior, communication and self-care skills.

“After James had his assessment, Karen felt it was important for him to see an autism specialist,” said Jones. “At first we tried to handle that ourselves and we couldn’t even get an appointment scheduled. Then Karen called and we got in to see Dr. Lawrence Kaplan at Shriner’s Hospital the next month. Dr. Kaplan’s tentative diagnosis placed James somewhere on the Autism spectrum, and Karen stepped up Early Intervention’s involvement in our life.”

“Before he started working with Karen, James really had no self-control,” Moriarty recalled. “He did lots of running around and throwing things, and he used basically no verbal communication. He wouldn’t even attempt it, wouldn’t even try. He’d just pick up a toy and heave it. A book was something he’d rip up or chew or throw. Now we can see how much James is improving. It can be hard to be a patient parent, but Karen teaches us what to do and it really helps.”

As part of her continuing involvement with James, Wheeler comes to their home in East Longmeadow for two sessions a week. She plays with James, but the play has a purpose. “I work with him on speech and fine motor skills, on following directions and on self-regulating,” Wheeler explained.

To further help with James’s speech development, Wheeler also brought in Kate Kelliher, a Speech Therapist with CHD Early Intervention. Together, Wheeler and Kelliher were instrumental in securing a workable solution for daycare. That was crucial since Moriarty is in school full-time studying to be a registered nurse and Jones works a variable schedule as a waitress.

“James got kicked out of his first daycare,” Moriarty explained. “He was biting and that was it. We found a new daycare, but they wouldn’t let Early Intervention work with James while he was there. We were at a point of desperation, but Karen and Kate were working for us. They didn’t simply want a place that would take James, they wanted him to have a quality daycare with more structure, more like preschool, and the opportunity to work with him on site. If we had gone in on our own I think the answer would have been no, but Karen and Kate went in for us, spoke to Helen Shea at Square One’s corporate office and Tommie Johnson at the Square One preschool. They agreed to give it a try and now it’s a team effort. Karen and Kate are even educating his preschool teacher in the classroom, as well as helping to educate other parents and some of the staff about Early Intervention.”

Wheeler and Kelliher worked out a plan with Square One so Early Intervention staff can work with James two hours a morning, four days a week. Now, in addition to the socializing and learning activities, he’s also getting one-on-one help to improve things like his vocabulary and self-control. Wheeler and Kelliher also helped James get access to Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services for autism from the May Institute. ABA focuses on how learning takes place. For example, learning can happen through positive reinforcement; that is, when a behavior is followed by a reward, the behavior is more likely to be repeated.

“The ABA services James gets are skills-based and intense,” said Wheeler. “James is increasing his vocabulary, even while his articulation is still running short, but he has become less frustrated and we keep hearing good reports from his preschool. Firmness and consistency work best with James. From how to turn on the faucet and wash his hands to sitting down when it’s time to eat to slowing down when it’s time for a nap, you make the rules clear and consistent. He’s making progress.”

When James turns three, he will be eligible for the education and development services he needs in the public schools. “We’re already working on that,” said Wheeler. “We have a date for James to be tested. We’ve set up a team meeting. At three years old, James will have his first Individual Education Plan.”

Jones said her son is making progress by leaps and bounds, emphasizing the importance of cueing James to promote appropriate behavior. “He has more words and cueing him as to what’s next gives him a reason to use those words,” she explained. “Even while he’s very independent, he responds to structure and follows directions. So every night it’s a tub, brush your teeth, and read a story—all cues that it’s time for bed.”

Moriarty described his family’s involvement with CHD Early Intervention as both an opportunity and a blessing. “Karen and Kate and the team at CHD have taken a weight off our shoulders,” he said. “We are going to have bumps in the road, but they make us feel like it’s going to be OK. And I can tell you this about every person we have encountered at CHD: their heart’s in it. So we trust in the team.”

What would Moriarty say to other parents of a child who may have or be at risk for developmental delay? “Don’t stay in denial. There’s help if you ask for it. There is a way forward and it’s at CHD.”

Learn more about CHD’s EI Program by clicking here.

You can make a difference

CASA Volunteers: In the Best Interest of the Child

Imagine you’re 11 years old. It’s the middle of the night and police have arrived to investigate a report of domestic violence. Tempers flare and it’s obvious you’ve been abused. For your safety, a social worker is removing you from your home. You’re going to live with a foster family in another town. You’ll be safe, but it will take a year, maybe two, before you’re living in a permanent home and the legal case involving those who abused you is resolved in court.

Actually there’s no need to imagine this scenario. It’s tragically common. Due to no fault of their own, children who are victims of abuse or neglect get caught up in the court system. They attend hearings with judges. They meet with lawyers, therapists and case workers. They move between foster homes and transition to new schools. It’s a heavy burden—on top of the emotional toll of abuse or neglect—and the cast of adults involved constantly changes.

But what if there was one adult who was always looking out for the child’s best interest? One constant presence who puts the child’s needs above everything else? Actually, there is such an adult: a CASA.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocate. Judges appoint CASAs to serve as Guardians ad litem, a special relationship created by court order for the duration of a legal action. CASAs, who are volunteers, act solely in the best interest of the child. They investigate circumstances, gather information and make recommendations to the judge so the child doesn’t get lost in the overburdened legal and social service system. CASAs continue to serve the child until their case is resolved and the child is placed in a permanent home.

In Hampden County, CHD directs the program for CASA volunteers. “CASAs come from many different backgrounds,” according to Cassandra Hildreth, Assistant Program Director for Court Appointed Special Advocates of Hampden County. “Some are working and raising families, others are retired. Many were teachers or worked in social service settings, although that’s not necessary. What is necessary is a willingness to make a significant commitment. We look for volunteers who will commit to at least a year and a half, about how long it takes to resolve a court case involving abuse or neglect of a child.”

Consistency is important for a child moving through the court system, and a CASA provides it. Lois Eaton, First Justice of Hampden County Juvenile Court, says CASAs work tirelessly to be there for the children they serve. “A CASA is that rock solid person who makes the effort to understand what’s going on in the child’s life over time,” said Judge Eaton. “A child’s foster parents, therapists, social workers and attorneys may change, but their CASA stands with them, constantly taking in information. If something is going wrong, they bring it to court’s attention. The CASA program is not driven by budgets or regulations or what an organization thinks should happen. It’s about putting kids’ needs first. That’s very empowering for kids.”

In carrying out a judge’s direction to act in the child’s best interest, a CASA becomes a negotiator. “Often I am a liaison between people who don’t agree,” said Shira McCormick, a CASA volunteer since 2013. “The lawyer tries to do what the child wants and the Department of Children and Families works for the best interest of the family, but the CASA does what’s in the best interest of the child. That isn’t always what the child wants. For example, a child may want to go back with their father, but after investigating the circumstances and meeting with all interested parties, the CASA may conclude that isn’t in the child’s best interest. The CASA presents their findings to the judge to consider in making decisions.”

Mary Andrewes has been a CASA volunteer since 2014. “Honestly, the first I heard about CASA was on the Dr. Phil show,” Andrewes acknowledged. “It turns out he and his wife are big advocates of CASA nationally. As I listened to him talk about how the organization helped children who have been removed for their family because of abuse or neglect, I wanted to get involved. For over 35 years, I worked in the school system with children and families. Being a CASA sounded like an opportunity to use my skills to help kids. I found the CASA chapter in Hampden County and made a call. Soon after I went into training.”

The 30-hour training program for CASA volunteers is based on a curriculum from the national CASA organization (casaforchildren.org) and delivered locally by trained facilitators. Instruction covers topics such as impacts of childhood trauma, workings of the court system, and roles and responsibilities of a CASA. “A CASA volunteer then serving in Hampden County came in to talk about her work,” Andrewes recalled. “We all had a chance to ask questions and learn directly from her experience.” After completing formal training, Hampden County CASA volunteers attend a swearing-in ceremony with a judge in Springfield Juvenile Court.

CHD’s CASA program was a recipient of the first-ever Doing Justice Award from the Massachusetts Judges Conference (MJC), the professional association of state court judges. The MJC presented the award to the six regional CASA organizations in Massachusetts, including CHD CASA. In making the award, the MJC cited CASA volunteers as “silent soldiers in their tireless effort to resolve disputes peacefully under the rule of law and to rebuild lives.”

To learn more, call 413-781-CASA.

Your contribution can help a child who has been affected tragically by domestic violence.

You can make a difference

Being a Foster Parent Takes Someone Special

I was adopted as an infant. In those days, an unmarried young woman who got pregnant typically “went away to school” for nine months, gave birth and put her baby up for adoption. That was my story. As I grew up and understood about adoption, I realized that anyone can become a mother or a father, but it takes someone special to be a mom or a dad. My parents earned the right to be called “Mom” and “Dad.” They welcomed me unconditionally as part of their forever family. They fostered me with love.

Fast forward to adulthood. I learned more about another kind of parent who provides a loving, supportive environment for a child not biologically theirs. They’re foster parents, and the children they nurture and support desperately need the influence of caring adults—parents—in their lives.

Does “foster care” make you think of a child removed from a home because of abuse or neglect? Or a teen removed from a home environment destructive to their wellbeing? There are thousands of such cases in Massachusetts. There are also children with medical or behavioral issues who require “diagnostic foster care,” which can involve frequent visits the hospital, often in Boston.

Like all children, foster children grow up. Eventually they “age out” of the foster care system. I prefer to think of them “graduating” from foster care into adulthood, like Ann did. She came into foster care at age 12. Her mother had serious mental health issues and there were signs of neglect and abuse. Ann says with CHD it was always great to know she had someone in her corner. Jen, her social worker, had a knack for taking two disparate parties and making sure they ended up on the same page. Ann “graduated” from foster care, transitioned into the Independent Living Program, and has made a life for herself. Today she works in a physician’s office as a medical secretary, lives on a farm and is engaged to be married.

Ben came into foster care in 2009 at age 16. His mother struggled with severe substance abuse and also wouldn’t support Ben’s identity as a young gay man. Ben’s foster parents took him in completely. CHD helped Ben find money so he could take driver education in school and his foster parents taught him how to drive. Ben graduated from high school and after he turned 18, his foster mother renovated a studio apartment next to her home. Ben continues to rent from her and they maintain a warm relationship. Without his foster parents and CHD, Bens says he doesn’t know what kind of path he’d have gone down. Currently he’s a senior in the Nursing program at American International College.

Could you be a foster parent? It can be hugely rewarding, but it’s not something you do for the money. View it as a vocation, as a way to commitment yourself to a young person who needs the love, care and stability you can provide. There is training involved and you must open your home to a child as well as case workers and other professionals assigned by the Commonwealth to look after the child’s wellbeing.

There’s no “perfect time” or “perfect family” for fostering. What matters to a foster child is what you can provide: a stable environment, someone to help with homework, someone who’s there after a tough day. If you can give time and attention, you can make a significant difference to a child.

Learn more about CHD’s Foster Care Program

During May, which is National Foster Care Month, CHD is proud to acknowledge foster parents and family members, volunteers, mentors, policymakers, child welfare professionals, and other members of the community who help children and youth in foster care to find permanent homes and connections. To learn more, visit CHD’s Foster Care homepage, call (413) 781-6556 or send an email requesting more information to fostercare@chd.org.