New facility provides hope for mothers, babies

By Staff

"I'm here to change my life and to be a better mother and a better woman – I need to be healthy," said Shay, a resident at The Haven, a University of Colorado School of Medicine clinical care center that serves women with serious substance abuse problems and addictions. She held her baby and spoke from her heart. "This program has opened my eyes. I'm blessed to be here."

Another resident, Hailey, says it's a hard program but she's learned a lot – she's growing emotionally and can't wait to graduate.

Thanks to nearly three years of planning, a $500,000 gift from the Anschutz Foundation and generous donations from 27 other foundations and individual donors, and with help from the CU Foundation, $3.8 million was successfully raised to build a new 9,000-square-foot Baby Haven Therapeutic Early Childhood Education Center for babies of moms going through treatment at the Haven. The grand opening celebration took place April 8.

The new Baby Haven, a licensed child-care facility for children up to age 5, allows more women like Shay and Hailey and their babies to benefit from the program. This state-of-the art facility provides the prevention program with the opportunity to become Qualistar rated. Once obtained, the Baby Haven will be the only child-care center of its kind in the state of Colorado, designed specifically to treat drug-exposed infants and toddlers.

Established in 1992 on the historic grounds of Fort Logan in Denver, the Haven is part of the Addiction Research and Treatment Services (ARTS) program of the CU School of Medicine. Women are often referred to the Haven from social services department, primary care settings, the criminal justice system, family members, and clients themselves. The Haven has served about 1,250 women and children and claims the lowest recidivism rate of any rehabilitation program: 90 percent of those who finish the program remain drug-free and crime-free as a result. As its mission, the Haven strives to provide a safe and empowering environment for pregnant women and their infant children – a place where women can recover from addictions and co-occurring illnesses; deliver healthy, drug-free infants; improve parenting skills; maintain their cultural and family connections; and become self-sufficient, confident and productive members of the community.

On average, a mother takes part in the Haven program for nine to 12 months in residential treatment and 12 months in after-care, where she receives substance-abuse treatment, participates in a therapeutic community, and learns how to build a new and positive life path for herself and her baby.

ARTS Deputy Executive Director Julie Krow says that without the Haven, many of the mothers would continue to use drugs or alcohol during their pregnancies and might not access prenatal care. These infants would likely be placed in relative or foster care, separated from mother at birth.

The Baby Haven is near the residences where the women and their children live; the women have no form of transportation to get to child-care facilities. They also need to be in treatment activities the majority of each day.

Friends of the Haven is a non-profit organization that was created with the sole purpose of providing financial and volunteer support for the Haven and its programs. In early 2008, Friends of the Haven initiated a capital campaign to secure the financial resources to build a new Baby Haven complex, expanding and improving care for babies.

"The Anschutz Foundation and Daniels Fund were the early enthusiastic donors that catalyzed the capital campaign," said Bill Winn, president of Friends of the Haven.

"The old facility is approximately 118 years old and is not programmatically or structurally able to meet the needs of a therapeutic nursery and home for babies," said Krow, who has been with the program for seven years. "This program provides a safe environment and instills a regular routine for moms and babies. Mental health, substance-abuse treatment, and primary care are brought together. Without this program, many of these children would be in foster care. Here, they can be in a safe environment with their moms."

According to Krow, the new Baby Haven provides a greater range of services to nurture and stimulate babies and ensure their mothers' development as parents. And the space allows for an expansion in the number of infants and toddlers served, from 16 to 40. Children served in the past were only up to 12 months old; now, the new Baby Haven can provide for children up to 5 years old. The children can stay in a safe environment during the early years when they are most at risk. The high-quality programming offered at the Baby Haven will prepare them for school. Many of the staff, which has increased to meet licensing and Qualistar standards, are dually certified both as lead teachers and addiction counselors.

"Throughout the last 11 years at University of Colorado Hospital, I have witnessed the detrimental effects that untreated addiction can have on mothers and babies," said Erica L. Schwartz, DNP, executive director of the Sheridan Health Services and director of midwifery at the University of Colorado College of Nursing. "The Baby Haven is a reputable organization that provides comprehensive, compassionate treatment to women, babies, and families. Pregnant women are generally motivated to seek treatment for their addiction. The Baby Haven offers comprehensive treatment and support, and the outcomes for women who complete the program are impressive."

The state of Colorado pledged the land for the new Baby Haven on the Fort Logan campus where the six Haven programs are located. Because it's a new building on a historic campus, the Baby Haven was designed to blend in to its environment and match the other structures.

The previous Baby Haven will be converted into administration offices and an Intake office that will free up space in other facilities for additional treatment services.

George Lundeen, a world-renowned sculptor living and working in Loveland, Colo., donatedTender Touch, a life-size bronze statue of a woman holding a baby in one arm and a child in the other. It's fitting that the statue will greet all who enter the front doors of the new Baby Haven.