[ Back to EurekAlert! ] Public release date: 13-Jun-2013
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Contact: Riya Anandwala
ranandwa@slu.edu
314-977-8018
Saint Louis University

Breaking substance abuse cycle: SLU studies parenting program for young mothers, children

IMAGE: Debra Zand, Ph.D., is an associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University.

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ST. LOUIS Through a $300,000 grant from Administration of Children and Families, part of Department of Health and Human Services, Debra Zand, Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics at Saint Louis University, will study treatment services offered by a local community provider to St. Louis area women who abuse illegal substances, and for their infants and toddlers.

The Family EMPOWERment Project is located at Queen of Peace Center, which is a family-centered behavioral health care provider for women with addiction, their children and families. The project will build and assess a new approach for delivering treatment services to a high risk group of 144 pregnant and postpartum women who need substance abuse treatment, and to their infants and toddlers in order to enhance child well-being and promote a safe family environment.

The center proposes to expand a comprehensive residential family-centered treatment services facility that is sensitive to women who are of different cultures and have undergone trauma.

Zand and her team of researchers will work with the center to investigate practices that have been tested in the lab and systematically explore ways in which they can be adapted in real world settings.

"Our research will provide critical information on best practices for promoting parenting resilience in substance abusing mothers," Zand said.

SLU's approach is a community-based participatory research model, which is an equal partnership between research scholars and members of a community.

Not only will this project get mothers on the right path, but it will also help their infants and toddlers, who are born in a substance-abuse environment. Zand's research looks at how to foster positive developmental progress in their infants and toddlers by focusing on their physical, psychological and social well-being.

"We are aiming for both short-term and long-term outcomes that will improve the quality of life for these women and their children," Zand said. "We want to focus on promoting optimal child development, individual and family strengths, reducing child maltreatment from ages 0-4 and improved access to coordinated family-centered services."

Zand will compare the effectiveness of the program at the center, which treats women and their children up to age 4, with a similar program based in St. Charles, which is only focusing on women.

While patients at both facilities will receive treatment services from their providers, the Queen of Peace Center will also provide women and their children with evidence-based practices such as Nurturing Parenting' skills as an alternative to abusive and neglecting parenting, and a support group model called 'Celebrate Families' that breaks the cycle of addiction for parents and focuses on family reunification.

"We want the community providers to become more research focused. So, we are teaching the Center how to collect, analyze, and interpret reliable and valid data to assess service process and outcomes, which will then be incorporated into how they do business as usual," Zand said. "We want to see if there are any differences in what we are trying to do at Queen of Peace Center by using a quasi-experimental design."

Zand and her team will interview patients and gauge the well-being of the mother and the child from the responses, and create reports from the collected data.

This data-driven approach will help providers to take clear, logical steps in designing such programs, as it's planned, thoughtful and methodical, Zand said.

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Established in 1836, Saint Louis University School of Medicine has the distinction of awarding the first medical degree west of the Mississippi River. The school educates physicians and biomedical scientists, conducts medical research, and provides health care on a local, national and international level. Research at the school seeks new cures and treatments in five key areas: infectious disease, liver disease, cancer, heart/lung disease, and aging and brain disorders.



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