By Jill Kingston, Founder and Executive Director of Brigid’s Path
Meet Mary, a new mom whose trauma-filled childhood evolved into an adulthood with violent relationships and substance use. After an unexpected pregnancy, she gave birth to a beautiful son and named him Joshua. Mary deeply loved her new baby and wanted the absolute best for him. Along with that love, she also had deep feelings of anxiety, guilt, and exhaustion.
Children’s Services came to the hospital after her son was born and placed him into foster care. Mary was sent home 48 hours after giving birth without her baby. Joshua cried out for his mother and longed to be close to the woman he had known for all of his short life.
Without a support system to help her through recovery, to help her find suitable housing, and to help provide her with reliable transportation, Mary struggled to work through the steps she needed to achieve to keep custody of her son. Hope was hard to find, and she and Joshua remained mostly apart in the months that followed.
At Brigid’s Path, we believe there is a better way to care for families than what Mary and Joshua experienced – and we are building it. Together with community partners, lawmakers, religious organizations, and lots of passionate individuals, we are making it possible to bridge the gaps in existing systems by building a new way.
As Ohio’s first newborn recovery center, building a new way starts with caring for both babies and moms in a new way.
At Brigid’s Path, our specially trained staff provides constant one-on-one care for babies in a peaceful, homelike setting. Babies receive immediate response to their needs. Medical care is overseen by neonatologists, and we have found our babies need less medication because of the nonpharmacological care we are able to provide (constant touch, rocking, small and frequent feeds, etc.). Instead of a cold health care environment, our nurseries feel like home.
When a baby comes to Brigid’s Path, mom can maintain custody. When possible, we encourage her to room with, care for, and bond with her baby. We make every effort to provide mom and other caregivers with the education they need to care for baby, including feeding, diaper changes, safe sleep, and care specific to Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Our nurses observe every parent interaction with baby and overall behavior when at Brigid’s Path. Babies remain in line-of-sight of our staff 24/7.
We connect mom with community resources that can help provide housing, transportation, identification, or any other number of services she may need. We advocate for our families involved with Children’s Services, courts, and treatment providers. We work for family preservation and the prevention of foster care placement when appropriate, walking through the steps with mom and showing her the way forward.
While there are a lot of resources and systems in place to help families, our experience over the last four years has shown us that families need support to bridge the gaps between existing resources and programs. So many of our families have never known what it means to look to the future with hope, have never known anything other than the current cycle in which they find themselves. We hear from so many families that they have never had a champion for their decisions, never known someone to model the behavior and lifestyle they’re working hard to achieve.
After caring for families for four years, we know our approach doesn’t just sound good in theory – it works. Last year, 83% of our babies would have been placed directly into foster care without Brigid’s Path; 96% of our moms were very satisfied with their experience at Brigid’s Path. Since 2017, 77% of our babies have been discharged into the care of their parents or extended family members. We are building stronger communities and a stronger Ohio through family preservation.
Ohio continues to face challenges caused by high levels of substance use disorder combined with social support systems that are not equipped to compassionately care for families. Families like Mary and Joshua deserve the support to find a better way forward – and we are providing it.
To learn more about Brigid’s Path, please visit https://brigidspath.org/ .