Research suggests that with intensive support, parents can overcome addiction and be reunited with their children as part of their recovery.
September is National Recovery Month, and a program in Ohio is showing success in healing families who have struggled with addiction.
Ohio START (Sobriety Treatment and Reducing Trauma) focuses on families experiencing child maltreatment and substance use disorders. Children Services caseworkers, behavioral health providers, and Family Peer Mentors work in tandem to get them the support they need.
Donna, in Summit County, struggled with addiction and lost custody of her two older sons over drug charges. She explained that when she found out she was pregnant again, she knew she needed to make a change and sought help.
After spending time in a court-ordered treatment center, she joined the Ohio START program.
"They helped me a lot," said Donna. "They helped me get my place. They're really work well as a team. They're caring and want to see us do good. They just ain't in it for a paycheck."
She said she's been in recovery for 17 months, is working and has her son back.
Ohio START, now in its fifth year, started with 17 counties and has since expanded to 54. More than 1,000 families have been served, with 121 successful case-plan completions in 2021.
The Family Peer Mentors have lived experience with addiction and the child welfare system. Khala, who is also from Summit County, said hers provided hope and motivation as she worked on sobriety and parenting.
"I know my recovery coach has multiple years sober, but she had also lost her kids to Children Services years ago," said Khala. "And so, just having somebody to talk who's been through it and knows exactly where you're coming from."
Training and certification to become a peer recovery supporter is done through the Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services. Khala said her experience with Ohio START showed her that the goal of Children Services is to keep families together.
"They don't believe that your kids would be better off with somebody else, as long as you're doing the right thing," said Khala. "That's the only thing - like, if you are doing the right thing, you will get your kids back. Don't give up hope, because there are people out there who absolutely believe in you."