For Jennifer Hinton, a family recovery support specialist at CHD’s FIRST Steps Together in Pittsfield, helping moms become better parents is her way of making the world a better place.
“I enjoy seeing them flourish,” she said. “They grow into learning who they really are—so many of them hadn’t known who they are because they were using substances for so long.”
FIRST Steps Together is a peer coaching and parenting support program for mothers recovering from opioid dependence. It functions as a home-visiting program that connects moms who have children up to the age of five with family recovery support specialists.
The program also offers group therapy, referrals for healthcare and substance use treatment, connections to community-based services, and help with the social services individuals are currently receiving.
“We also help some of them find apartments and jobs,” and assist in facilitating the EBT benefits process, said Hinton. “We’re there for them when they feel nobody’s on their side. We show them the compassion that they’re not getting elsewhere because of the stigma of substance use.”
Pittsfield has long been impacted by problem drug use, but the opioid crisis of recent years has hit the largest city in Berkshire County particularly hard. The family recovery support specialists at FIRST Steps Together have lived experience of successful, sustained recovery and have considerable knowledge of the addiction treatment services and support services systems. Hinton has been in alcohol recovery for 13 years.
She especially enjoys seeing mothers reunite with their children after the state Department of Families & Children has taken custody of them. “Helping them remain sober and thrive—that’s the best part of my job,” she said.