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AIA Change Agents: Practicing Safety Mindfulness Project for Mothers in Drug Treatment

Abatemarco_Diane_webThis post is part of an on-going series called AIA Change Agents where we get to know each of the direct service programs funded by the Children’s Bureau under the AIA Act. In this segment, we sat down to chat with Diane Abatemarco, Project Director of Practicing Safety Mindfulness Project for Mothers in Drug Treatment in Philadelphia, PA.

1. Tell us a little bit about Practicing Safety Mindfulness Project for Mothers in Drug Treatment.

This project provides integrated services to improve parenting in a population of pregnant and parenting women who are being treated for substance abuse. The multifaceted intervention delivers Practicing Safety (PS), Mindfulness Based Parenting (MBP), and enhanced community care coordination.  The women in our study are recruited from Family Center, an outpatient treatment center for women with substance abuse disorders.  It is at Family Center that the two hour MBP class takes place, each week for 11 weeks.  Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Philadelphia is the pediatric practice that serves the majority of babies born to mothers in treatment at Family Center.  Practicing Safety is a quality improvement program to prevent abuse and neglect and is occurring at Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Philadelphia.  Enhanced case management occurs at both the pediatric site and Family Center (FC).  The social worker at the pediatric practice and the case worker at Family Center work closely with one another to ensure that if a pediatrician identifies a high-risk family, a referral for services for the mother and her baby is completed. This innovative program does include adaptations to the standard MBP curricula to more appropriately respond to the needs of the unique population of this study.

2.  Your program utilizes a control group. Can you tell us a bit about that experience?

We have three groups in our study.  The first is the intervention group that receives the mindfulness curricula at Family Center, enhanced case management, and Practicing Safety at the pediatric practice.  The second is the intervention group that receives the Practicing Safety effects as well as the enhanced case management but chooses not to take the Mindfulness Parenting Program.  The third group is the full control group who are Family Center outpatients who are not attending mindfulness classes at FC and do not bring their babies to Nemours duPont Pediatrics, Philadelphia for pediatric care.  This control group will allow us to make comparisons to the other intervention groups in assessing the impact of our each aspect of the intervention(s).  These women will receive standard care and services at Family Center, and bring their babies to other pediatric clinics as they normally would.

3. What do you find to be the most challenging aspect of this work?

The most challenging aspect of this work is ensuring that careful attention is made so the women’s time isn’t greatly impacted by our study while at Family Center.  The participants have weekly schedules of activities, groups, and sessions at Family Center that project staff must work around in order to complete the data collection.  We must be adaptive and responsive to the availability of the participants.  Another challenging aspect is ensuring the curricula and resources given to the women (at Family Center and the Pediatric Practice) are culturally appropriate and acceptable.  To guide us in ensuring the materials used are responsive to the needs of this population, we have worked with a peer specialist (a former outpatient woman at Family Center).

4. If your program were to have a mascot, what would it be? 

By definition a mascot is a person used to represent a group and bring good luck.  The heart of this project is helping mothers in drug treatment begin to care for themselves, supporting them, and hoping to improve the parenting they offer their children.  So within that framework, we would hope the babies are well cared for and feel the benefits of our intervention.  Our conceptualization of a mascot transcends the individual, and extends to the family unit, so in our study we view the mother/baby dyad as our mascot.

5. What question were you hoping we’d ask? What would you like to tell us that wasn’t covered?

We’d like to talk a bit about the innovative adaptation of the mindfulness based parenting curricula to this population.  Adaptation processes included interviews with key personnel and stakeholders, included state-of-the-art substance abuse treatment guidelines, adaptation of early parenting mother/baby dyad education, and are informed with the knowledge of the impact of trauma.  We also ensured that the adaptations reflected appropriate literacy levels and cultural sensitivities.

One more interesting piece is that all project staff were trained in traditional Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).  This training was critical for the iterative process of project staff reviewing and editing the adaptation curricula.  Being trained themselves, all staff were aware of the core foundations of the curriculum the women would be exposed to.

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