So Freedom House was born. “It was the first in the region to recognize the problems parenting women faced and to allow them to bring their kids to treatment,” says Jennifer Hancock, president and CEO of Volunteers of America Mid-States, which operates the facility. “That also promotes attachment and bonding between child and mother.”
Freedom House quietly began providing services to eight to ten women at a time. In 2014, as the opioid crisis worsened, there was a dramatic spike in moms in addiction needing help. Demand for services skyrocketed. Freedom House tripled its capacity by opening three locations.
Women come in while pregnant, as early as possible to keep them through pregnancy. Transitional housing is also provided to help them land softly after treatment is completed. There’s no age limit or restriction on the number of children each mother can bring. They can stay for an additional two years, provided they’re working or in school, and they have access to therapists and mentorship.
“We aren’t just treating addiction’s symptoms,” Hancock explains. “We take a trauma-informed approach to get to the root cause of their addiction. Parenting classes, psychosocial care, linkage to high risk prenatal care, and MAT are provided. We also feature a highly clinical, interdisciplinary medical team and peer support specialists for onsite support.”
“For every one woman we treat, we save two lives,” Hancock points out. “We empower women to bring other children. This enhances treatment because they don’t have to worry and stress about who is caring for their kids. It’s a multiplier effect. It’s a treatment program for our youngest clients as well. We provide primary prevention for them. So everyone is learning and healing together.”
This is what Freedom House means to Megan, who went through the program. “I came and I was scared to death. No one wanted to take me because of my pregnancy, and if it weren’t for Volunteers of America, I would have been out on the street. I needed a facility like this to tell me to get up and take a shower, wash my clothes, make my bed. I’d been living on the streets for so long, I need someone to tell me how to live. For the first time, I found it more rewarding to be present for my child than to chase that next drink. There are many other people out there with stories like mine who deserve to be heard and loved.” Who deserve to know what freedom from addiction feels like.
Freedom House was a featured award winner in the 2019 Innovation Now project of the Addiction Policy Forum.