Family rehab program allows recovering drug addicts to bring children along

mom-pullingELEANOR HALL: The Federal Government has launched its latest awareness campaign on the dangers of the drug ice.

But many people trying to get help in dealing with their addiction are confronting long waiting lists at rehabilitation centres.

It’s even harder for parents who don’t have anyone to look after their children while they’re in a treatment program.

Bridget Brennan visited one of the few centres in Australia that allows recovering addicts to bring their children with them.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Sam is chopping ingredients for the quiche she’s making in her kitchen in Sydney’s south-west.

The 28-year-old is preparing dinner for her two children, aged 22 months and one, but like a lot of toddlers, they’re fussy eaters.

SAM: The kids don’t really eat half of the things that are in there because they’re green obviously, so I’m just making two different ones.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Sam is standing in what looks like a normal kitchen but she’s actually living in a cottage inside a special addiction rehab facility.

It’s on a secluded piece of land run by the drug rehabilitation organisation, Odyssey House. 

Sam is here because she’s addicted to ice.

SAM: My life was breaking, falling apart, I suppose.

I had come out of a relationship a little while beforehand, I’d just found out I was pregnant and I had just had a baby, and I knew I needed help.

I’d been out of addiction for 15 months because I got myself clean when I was pregnant with Layla, stayed clean for 15 months and then all of a sudden started to feel like falling back into addiction again.

I used a few times and then said, no, I have to go.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: What makes this facility so unusual is that unlike most drug treatment centres, mums and dads can bring their children with them.

WOMAN: Can you sing ABC?

CHILD: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J…

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Single dad Mark is here with his three kids, who’re all under eight.

He’s also recovering from ice addiction.

MARK: It made me a bit crazy, it cost me thousands of dollars, nearly ended up in jail a few times. 

BRIDGET BRENNAN: What do you think this will do for your life, being here?

MARK: I’m hoping it will change my life completely.

I’ve been doing the wrong thing for the last 20 years and I’m hoping just to get out of here, get myself a house, get myself a job.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: John and Sharni are a couple who’ve struggled with drug and alcohol abuse; they checked in almost two years ago.

Their two-year-old daughter Savannah is living with them.

JOHN: Being a good parent in particular in this part of the program, that’s helped heaps, because you think you are doing well, you think you are doing, you know, what you can as a parent in an addiction, you don’t sort of stop and think about all the things that can impact a child right from the word go.

And that is something that’s huge for me that I’ve got out of it and I’ve learnt.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: What do you think this experience will do for Savannah? 

SHARNI: Well she’s got healthy parents now who know how to look after her, who know how to look after themselves, who are positive and healthy and which will give her a great future.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: John and Sharni had to come from Tasmania to check in to this Sydney facility.

There’s nothing like this for parents in their home state.

SHARNI: She’s our daughter, I didn’t want to be without her, you know, and being a first time mum, she was only really young and I wanted her to be with me.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Melissa Eldridge runs the Odyssey House parent’s and children’s program.

She says there’s a waiting list because there are very few places like it in Australia.

MELISSA ELDRIDGE: We’re quite rare kind of a service because we do deal with single parents, and that could be single mums, single dads and it could be a couple relationships that we have here, which is quite different to most other programs within Australia. 

BRIDGET BRENNAN: She thinks a lot of addicts delay getting help because they’re worried about leaving their children.

MELISSA ELDRIDGE: That is a huge concern we hear from a lot of our clients who have come into the program.

There is concern that they may not be able to have their children with them, or who will look after their children.

So it’s important to have programs like the Odyssey House Parent’s and Children’s program because it allows the family unit to stay together.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: The children living here with their parents are all under the age of 12 and they’ve been witnesses to their parents’ drug addictions.

Melissa Eldridge again.

MELISSA ELDRIDGE: The effects can vary, but it typically impacts the relationship they have, not only with themselves and with their extended families, but also obviously with their children.

And that can affect the children’s well being cognitively, developmentally, socially and emotionally.

BRIDGET BRENNAN: Sam says she’s learning how to be a better parent and she’s been clean for almost two years.

SAM: I’ve got my life back, I am a good mum now, I can provide for my kids in every way that they need – emotionally, developmentally – and we’re safe, which is the biggest thing.

So yeah, I love being a mum, I love being a healthy mum. 

ELEANOR HALL: That’s recovered drug addict and mother, Sam, ending Bridget Brennan’s report. Article Link…

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.