We decided to recap a research study that seeks to answer this timely and relevant question during Week of the  Young Child ® April 4-8, 2022. Week of the Young Child is a national observance designed to focus public attention on the needs of young children and their families and to recognize the programs and services that meet those needs.

“’A good mother’: Impact of motherhood identity on women’s substance use and engagement in treatment across the lifespan” focused on themes of child separation, the involvement of child protective services, as well as structural and interpersonal factors that may have impacted mothers’ decision-making regarding whether to access treatment. The research team – led by Jaimie P Meyer, MD and  including – Zoe M Adams, Callie M Ginapp, Carolina R Price, Yilu Qin, Lynn M Madden, PhD, and Kimberly Yonkers, MD – defined motherhood broadly, encompassing women’s identities as mothers, whether biological, adoptive, or as primary caretakers of children  such a grandparent. READ ABSTRACT This research was funded in part by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Excerpts from this important research are highlighted below – the research was conducted by recruiting persons using services at the APT Foundation, one of Connecticut’s largest addiction treatment centers. APT provides comprehensive services including primary care, both ambulatory and residential treatment for substance use disorders, including medications for opioid use disorder (MOUD).

Across five sites with an open access policy, there are approximately 200 new intakes per month, 38% of whom are women.

The organization participates in a robust research program inclusive of issues related to representation in substance use disorder treatment, strategies for improving clinical care among vulnerable populations, and women’s health. We conclude this post with information about our relevant services and resources. 

Women’s access to SUD treatment can, as a matter of policy and logistics, become complicated by their identities as mothers, grandmothers, and caretakers. At the same time, these very identities provide substantial motivation for many women to begin navigating into treatment or seeking support. Nowhere does this inherent contradiction stand out in greater relief than where health care in the U.S. interfaces with the criminal justice system. 


It is here, at the point of screening and evaluation which might lead to a diagnosis and appropriate clinical care, where both systems tend to fail women, especially when day-to-day responsibilities include caring for children. In the following study, Yale -affiliated researchers looked at the stigma mothers face and the disproportionate harm to families of color caused by policies that attach morality and criminal penalties to SUD. Criminalizing mothers with SUD creates disincentives to get help for a chronic disease, working against communities’ desired public health outcomes and hindering organizations’ ability to address co-occurring risk factors and comorbidities. 

During pregnancy, women with SUD – especially women of color – often face child endangerment charges. 

As the study states, “In 2014, Tennessee became the first state to enact legislation that defined opioid use during pregnancy as fetal assault; Oklahoma and North Carolina tried to pursue similar legislation (Burke, 2016). Twenty-three states allow civil prosecution of mothers who use drugs under child-welfare laws, and three states can commit pregnant women to SUD treatment without their consent (Miranda, Dixon, & Reyer, 2015).”

With possible consequences that include criminal conviction, loss of child custody, and extensive surveillance throughout pregnancy and while raising their children, it is no wonder why women can be reluctant to arrive in treatment for SUD, and many never make it. Those who do cite ongoing stigma as barriers to setting and achieving their treatment goals. Conversely, family reunification can substantially raise a woman’s prospects for ongoing periods of abstinence and development of supportive life skills.

Among the APT Foundation’s state-licensed facilities is a residential treatment program for mothers with small children. This facility – known as the Amethyst House – enables mothers and their children to be safely housed together and receive appropriate care, wraparound services, and community support. Residential mothers in SUD treatment learn to be part of a healthy family of peers and to experience positive social interaction without the use of addictive substances.

In addition, APT offers a range of parenting groups and helps with building organizational and motivational skills on an outpatient basis.  We believe that, based on the evidence, SUD treatment is not only compatible with parental responsibilities but makes meeting such responsibilities more successful on a daily basis.


Working with clients, we see each day how accessing treatment helps parents improve emotional connection with their children. This connection is very important, for quality of life for families and for community public health. Please share these Resources for Self Care with anyone you know who may need them, and encourage them to come to APT whenever they’re ready. Meanwhile, here are some Resources for Family & Friends

During the 2022 Week of the Young Child and all year long, we are here to help…in ways that follow evidence-based research and help people help themselves to improvements in their lives and the lives of their loved ones. Quite simply, when it comes to families facing the challenge of overcoming opioid and other substance use disorders, TREATMENT WORKS.

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