Communities Can Improve Outcomes for Drug-Exposed Infants and their Families


Upcoming Events

July 11, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – 11 July, 2016 — On July 12 from 12–1:20 pm, the Congressional Baby Caucus will host a briefing to highlight innovative approaches to caring for infants with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), a growing public health threat stemming from our nation’s opioid crisis. The briefing will be held in Room 2103 of the Rayburn House Office Building.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, from 2000 to 2012, the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (drug withdrawal resulting from exposure to addictive opiates during gestation) quintupled, increasing to nearly 22,000 babies in 2012. Even more startling is that these levels do not contemplate the explosion in opioid usage experiences over the past several years.

The briefing will focus on innovative approaches that reduce costs and improve outcomes by emphasizing parent inclusion and empowerment in the treatment of these high-risk infants. Briefing speakers include –

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro

Dr. Matthew Rogers Grossman, MD, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics; Associate Director, Pediatric Residency Program; Medical Director, Short Stay Unit; Interim Quality and Safety Officer, Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital. His innovative approach to engaging parents in care of NAS newborns has reduced average hospital stays from 28 days to 6.

Dr. Joshua D. Sparrow, MD, Director, Brazelton Touchpoints Center, Boston Children’s Hospital and President, Brazelton Touchpoints Foundation. For the last 20 years, Dr. Sparrow, a child, adolescent, and general psychiatrist, and the Center have worked deeply and for the long haul in community systems — health care, early education, home visiting, child welfare, libraries, schools and more — to develop strengths-based, trauma-informed services that improve outcomes for children and families.

The Honorable Katherine Lucero, Supervising Judge, Juvenile Justice Court Division, Santa Clara, CA, and co-creator of innovative therapeutic court programs including the Family Treatment Court and the Dependency Family Wellness Court.  These approaches have resulted in significant improvements in the lives of children and families, and reduced costs to the foster care, health care, and court systems.

About the Brazelton Touchpoints Center

The Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) was founded in 1996 by Dr. T. Berry Brazelton and colleagues and is based at Boston Children’s Hospital, a Harvard Medical School teaching hospital. Together with families, providers, and communities, BTC develops and applies knowledge of early childhood development to practice and policy through professional and organizational development, evaluation, advocacy and awareness, and serving as a resource for proven practices.

Dr. Sparrow says that, “For twenty years, the Touchpoints Approach has been used by family-facing professionals and institutions around the country to partner with parents of infants and young children. When parents are struggling with the effects of poverty, trauma, substance abuse, and other mental health challenges, health care, child welfare, education, and other professionals turn to the Touchpoints Approach to partner with families to find and build on their strengths.”

About FIRST 5 Santa Clara and the Family Courts

The Santa Clara County Courts partnered with FIRST 5 Santa Clara to help end the cycle of families appearing and re-appearing before the courts with substance use and mental health challenges that resulted in the removal to foster care of multiple infants and children. As part of these reforms, the Touchpoints Approach was implemented as a foundation of practice across the system of care. To date, Santa Clara County has 565 service providers, including the court and child welfare systems, who practice Touchpoints.

Jolene Smith, CEO of FIRST 5, explains, “We partnered with the dependency and child welfare systems because we wanted to impact the intergenerational cycle of children born to parents who experience trauma and struggle with substance abuse, many of whom are former foster youth themselves.” In discussing drug court practices, she states, “ In general, most of the drug treatment courts have been adult focused. We have the opportunity, and more importantly, the responsibility, to shift the focus to a child-centered approach.”

The result of the collaboration among agencies and with the courts has been a dramatic improvement in child and family outcomes, including reduced time spent in foster care; improved mental health and substance treatment compliance and outcomes; reduced number of subsequent NAS babies born to program participants; and reduced costs to social programs. Touchpoints training was an important driver in these outcomes, as it built knowledge and skills to support families and their children.

Smith points out that, “Over 90% of Touchpoints participants reported that Touchpoints training resulted in an increase in their ability to engage and build positive relationships with the children and families they serve; broadened their perspective to see parents/caregivers as experts on their own children; and developed an enhanced understanding of the importance of reflective practice to strengthen relationships with children and families.”

Read the full news story here.

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