The Health Federation of Philadelphia won a $3 million federal grant to help parents dealing with substance abuse re-unite with their children.
The group is using the money to develop a new program that will provide weekly therapy sessions for parents and kids from age zero to five who have been placed in foster care.
A good parent-child relationship is essential to healthy development, said program manager Una Majmudar.
“The therapist is really there to create a safe space for the caregiver and the child to repair their relationship, through play, through talk, through guiding the discussion,” Majmudar said. “Letting them both really learn new skills to build a better and healthier relationship.”
Young children in foster care are more likely to have developmental delays and emotional and behavioral problems when they grow up, said co-director Leslie Lieberman. That is at least partly due to the trauma they suffer when young.
“We know that if we can intervene early, we can do some work to prevent those poor outcomes,” Lieberman said.
The program is called the Philadelphia Partnership Promoting Family Recovery and Well-being, and its ultimate goal is to reunite parents and children whenever possible.
Arthur Evans, Commissioner of Philadelphia’s Department of Behavioral Health Services, said similar therapy traditionally targeted either the parent or the child.
Now, they will be brought together into the same room.
“The thing that we know is that the interaction between the parent and the child is really important, the attachment that the child has with the parent is very important,” Evans said. “If we can target that as our focus of the intervention, we’re much more effective than targeting …either the child or the adult.”
The program hopes to serve 250 Philadelphia families over five years.