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Blog, In the News

‘If my baby can do it, so can I’

July 13, 2015

A Courier-Journal story Wednesday, July 8, 2015 (, informs readers of an increase medical professionals are seeing in the number of babies being born dependent on drugs. Rates are especially high in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama, with hospitalizations for drug-dependent newborns in Kentucky soaring 48 percent in one year, from 955 in 2013 to 1,409 in 2014

Drug-dependent babies, if born prematurely, often suffer vomiting, diarrhea, feeding difficulties, low-grade fevers, seizures and respiratory distress, and even those born full term typically exhibit significant health issues. Treatment includes declining doses of morphine and comfort measures, so for one of these babies, a slow withdrawal from drugs is his or her first experience of the world.

There’s help beyond medical, though, for babies such as these, their mothers and their future. There are programs such as HANDS (Healthy Access Nurturing Development Services), whose goals are to help first-time families overcome challenges to lead successful, healthy and happy lives. Family & Children’s Place, which works with children and families hurt by abuse, provides the program locally.

HANDS provides in-home visitation for first time parents with risk factors (such as drug dependency) that affect healthy child outcomes. Caseworkers share tips, tools and resources to stimulate child growth and development, and to equip parents to make smart, sound decisions for themselves and their baby.

Following is a story of how the birth of her son, and his battle to be drug free, inspired a young mother to get clean herself, and the supporting role her HANDS caseworker played in that process.

“If my baby can do it, so can I.” A new mom breaks her addiction.

Every day is different for caseworkers with Family & Children’s Place HANDS (Health Access Nurturing Development Services) program. Working with new or expectant parents with the hopes to foster healthy births and stable child growth and development, free of abuse, our caseworkers never know what awaits them on their next home visit.

A recent assignment proved how powerful help, hope and opportunity can really be.

Sherry, a Family & Children’s Place caseworker was assigned to work with a family facing major challenges. The mother, who lived with but was not married to the baby’s father, was addicted to heroin, and the baby was born with drugs in its tiny system as well.

The baby spent 10 weeks in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), despite being born full term, slowly being weaned off methadone until he was clear of the drug. The mother, seeing the baby free from the drug, decided she needed to get clean as well. If the baby could do it, so could she, and she felt like she should do it for herself, the baby and the baby’s future.

Today, both mother and baby are free from drugs. The struggle isn’t over – life remains challenging for the family, but with their own determination and help from their HANDS home visitation caseworker, things are getting better.

The baby is doing great. He is exhibiting normal development and there appear to be no adverse effects from his at-birth addiction. At the outset, Sherry hoped for the best but didn’t know what to expect. Now, things look positive – for the baby, the mom, the family – a true success story.