Mother’s Day evokes handmade cards from grade school kids to their moms, flowery cards to new moms, and loving cards for years of devotion to mothers from their adult children. For mothers who grapple with substance use the desire to do right by their children is complicated by the weight of addiction, which can tear families apart.
Making a documentary about a treatment program that helps mothers with substance use disorders keep their children is important to filmmaker, Sheila Ganz. In 1969, Ganz was an unwed mother. She became pregnant as the result of being raped. Her parents wanted her to go into a home for unwed mothers in Boston. Ganz didn’t want to go there. So she got a job, saved her money, bought a car and headed out for Los Angeles. She totaled her car just east of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and was pinned under the car with a fractured pelvis at five months pregnant. After being in the hospital, she went into a Booth Memorial Home for Unwed Mothers. Ganz was not given a choice and unwillingly relinquished her newborn daughter for adoption. “Losing my daughter felt like an amputation. I lived for the day when I would find her and tell her I love her.” Continue reading →
Every 19 minutes, a baby is born in America to a mother who struggles with opiate addiction, a percentage that has soared in the past decade alongside a broader addiction spike. The increase has forced some state lawmakers to decide whether the mother’s drug use, which can leave the baby with post-birth withdrawal called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), is a criminal justice issue or a disease.
As with heroin and opioid addiction outside of pregnancy, the consensus among doctors and advocates is that this is a health matter, and not one for the courts. (NAS is a highly treatable condition without long-term effects, though it’s still an unfortunate one: newborns with NAS convulse, projectile vomit and emit a telltale shriek.) President Obama agrees – he recently announced an increase in funds dedicated to treatment, and an increase in the number of patients a doctor can treat with some maintenance medications.
State lawmakers, on the other hand, are still learning. They tend to default to treating it as a crime, only to find that doesn’t work. Continue reading →
National Association of Social Workers California News
February 20, 2015
By Cheryl Blankenship Kupras, MSW, LCSW
With the Academy Awards fast approaching, I was thinking about the wonderful movies I have been able to see over the past year. Not only have I seen some of the box office top bills, but have also been able to see some fabulous independent films as well as my personal favorite—documentaries. One of these documentaries was On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery, by filmmaker Sheila Ganz.
Driven by the desire for custody of their children, five mothers struggle to overcome addiction in a gender responsive residential treatment program. Their intimate story reveals experiences with domestic violence, inter-generational family issues, prostitution and incarceration. On Life’s Terms: Mothers in Recovery interweaves the women’s three year journey to transform their lives through self-sufficiency and new found pride with drug laws that impact mother and child, and will inspire hope for recovery. For trailer and info go tohttp://www.onlifesterms.org.
Watching this film, I reflected on my 20-plus year career as a professional social worker and how policy and practice in this arena has ebbed and flowed through the decades. I started my social work career in a perinatal substance abuse program in a rural, minimum base allocation county in California in the early 1990s when “crack babies” and fetal alcohol exposure were high priorities in California and funding and support followed. Continue reading →