Helena’s Florence Crittenton Home has been helping young mothers for 118 years. The times have changed since the dawn of the 20th century, but their work still focuses on providing care for those who might not be able to care for themselves.
Florence Crittenton is starting two new programs to help young mothers who are struggling with substance-use disorders and those who don’t have homes to go to. The new Chemical Dependency Program and Runaway and Homeless Youth Program are aimed at young mothers struggling with addiction or homelessness.
The Chemical Dependency Program is funded by a federal grant and the Homeless Youth Program is paid for mostly by state funding. Both are supplemented by fundraising dollars provided through events like this weekend's Paint the Town Pink gala, which has already sold out.
“A couple years ago we started analyzing what was happening with clients,” Executive Director Barbara Burton said. The Florence Crittenton Center noticed that client needs were shifting and that substance-use disorders were on the rise.
“We’re working on improving treatment services with support for substance abuse,” Burton said. So the Crittenton House formed a therapeutic trauma-response program to treat pregnant, young mothers with substance abuse issues that is now starting this year, called the Residential Chemical Dependency Program. The Home is still hiring new staff for the programs.
Burton said the Florence Crittenton Home used an Adverse Childhood Experiences study to inform the new program.
“Toxic stress in the first few years affects brain development,” Burton said. Toxic stress can be caused by a host of experiences, but Burton said that a lot of the young women who come through the Florence Crittenton Home have struggled with loss of parents, deaths, imprisonment, the foster care system and abuse and neglect, which raises the risks for them and their children.
“We treat the whole family. Not just the woman or child, but who the (mother) identifies as family,” Burton said.
A lot of issues are tied to substance-use and mental health issues, Burton said, but splitting those two is “the chicken and egg” problem. Because women who come to the home are in ongoing chaotic and stressful environments, splitting those issues apart is important to providing a way for new mothers to heal.
And healing is a key piece of the puzzle for these programs. But what comes after the healing is more important. Burton sees the work the Florence Crittenton Home is doing as “generational.”
“It’s how she parents children in future generations,” Burton said.
Though tickets for Saturday's Paint the Town Pink gala are sold out, raffle tickets are still on sale. For more information on this event, go to www.paintthetownpink.info or call 442-6950 ext. 204.