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Keeping Babies Safe While Treating Moms with Addiction

by Sheryl Harris , Director of Cuyahoga County’s Department of Consumer Affairs

As Cuyahoga County and much of the nation tackles the opiate epidemic and the impact on families, the Division of Children and Family Services is drawing on the lessons learned from previous drug crisis to help addicted mothers recover while keeping babies and children safe. 

The Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (S.T.A.R.T.) program receives referrals from hospitals when a pregnant mom tests positive for drugs, or when a new mom and/or baby tests positive at delivery. The S.T.A.R.T. team pairs a Child Protection Specialist (CPS) with a family advocate. The CPS focuses on the safety of the baby, making sure there is a sober caregiver for the child at home or placing them in foster care if needed. The advocate helps the mother access addiction treatment resources and mentors her through the addiction recovery process so she can safely care for her baby. 

Family advocates are critical to the success of the team. Many of them have recovered from addictions themselves or had experience with family members who were addicted. They bring real life experience to their work and offer moms hope that they can recover and become good parents.   

“They cared for me when I didn’t care about myself,” said one former S.T.A.R.T. client. “Not only did they help me, they helped my kids.”  

From the beginning of S.T.A.R.T. in 1997 through 2016, 6,534 moms and babies have been helped by the program. The program is in even higher demand due to the growing opiate epidemic. 

This is an excerpt from the Cuyahoga County Department of Health and Human Services 2016 Annual Report. Click here to view the full report.