Next StepsA new program in Contra Costa County is helping parents recovering from substance abuse to maintain their sobriety and focus on improving their parenting skills and relationships with their children.

Called Next Steps, the program aims to improve the relationship between parents and children since a healthy parent-child relationship is critical to a child’s optimal social and emotional development.

This relationship, however, is often interrupted or strained by parental substance abuse, which is one of the most common risk factors for child neglect or abuse.  If untreated, parental substance abuse can lead to permanent long-term health concerns or developmental delays in children.  Improving parenting skills and confidence can also prevent parents in recovery from relapsing.

We’re allocating $300,000 to support Next Steps, which is implemented by Contra Costa Health Services (Behavioral Health Services) and Contra Costa ARC/Lynn Center. Our partnership with Contra Costa Health Services nearly doubles the budget for the program by securing an additional $250,000 in matching funds from Medi-Cal.

NestSteps1According to Dr. Tina Martin-Swift, the Clinical Coordinator for Next Steps, many parents served are newly reunited with their children and are overwhelmed balancing their children’s needs with their own. In many cases, the children have difficulty managing their parent’s re-entry into their lives and may become depressed or exhibit overly aggressive behavior or tantrums – behavior that can make mothers feel rejected.

“We try to put the structure back in the parents’ and children’s lives,” said Dr. Martin Swift. “We want our parents to feel more confident so we focus on parenting skills, coping strategies, positive discipline, and other ways to reduce their stress.”

Every client is matched with a therapist and family partner, who in addition to providing parenting support, can guide parents through the child welfare reunification process or connect them to services such as child care, mental health therapy, WIC, or other supports to help parents maintain sobriety.

Jennifer, a current Next Steps client who’s a single parent of a 16-month-old and has been sober for six months, says the program has helped her feel like a responsible parent.

“The staff help me figure out other ways to parent than how I grew up,” says Jennifer.  “Having Next Steps in my life also means I don’t have to rely on anyone from my past for help, which has always been my trigger for relapsing. I have a feeling of independence. They make you feel so special.”

For more information or to make a referral, contact Next Steps: (925) 439-9628.

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