Montefiore in the News
$3 Million for Montefiore to Engage Fathers, Improve Child Welfare Among Families at Risk of Substance Abuse
- November 21, 2022
THE CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL at Montefiore Photo by Síle Moloney
The Administration for Children and Families, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded researchers at Montefiore Health System a $3 million grant to improve the well-being of families, by helping fathers with substance use disorders. The new grant aims to enhance a regional partnership between addiction treatment programs, child welfare services, and government agencies.
Officials from the hospital said that in the United States, 8.7 million children live in households with at least one parent who has a substance use disorder. In The Bronx, where there are more overdoses than in any other U.S. county, they said substance use disorders are a significant challenge, and child welfare outcomes are sub-optimal, despite New York City having one of the most comprehensive and fully-funded child welfare services.
Through the new grant, Montefiore will enroll 240 Bronx fathers who have been identified as being at risk for substance misuse and are referred by medical providers or child welfare agencies. Fathers will be randomly assigned to two groups to evaluate each program’s impact on parent and child outcomes.
“The Bronx represents the highest-need families served by the child welfare system,” said Scott Wetzler, PhD, vice president for behavioral health management at Montefiore and professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “By engaging fathers who have opioid or alcohol use disorders, which we know is often related to a history of trauma, we hope to better understand their behaviors, and align with welfare services on how best to improve the wellbeing of the whole family,” Wetzler said.
The majority of participants will receive a number of enhanced fatherhood services, including enrollment in Montefiore’s “HERO Dads” program, which focuses on achieving family and financial success by improving conflict management and communication skills, while strengthening parenting and co-parenting skills.
Fathers will also receive motivational enhancement services to change unhealthy behaviors, and case management support to improve access to clinical, social and employment resources. Additionally, they will receive contingency management therapy, a form of treatment that uses different types of rewards to reinforce healthy behaviors.
A smaller number of fathers will be offered currently available services through local and federal programs like the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development Father Initiative, which focuses on the development of essential parenting skills, but without further enhancements, as a comparison.
According to Montefiore officials, the new funding builds on Montefiore’s HERO Dads program, and mirrors strategies the health system has successfully leveraged to help mothers with substance use disorders to reduce their anxiety and distress, while improving their parenting skills. They said such initiatives have also led to improvements in children’s relationships with peers, self-esteem and school performance.
Additionally, to better serve Bronx families, Montefiore will establish regular meetings to collaborate closely with the offices of New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS), the New York State Office of Children and Family Services, the New York State Office of Addiction Services and Supports, and the New York City Office of Child Support Services. As part of the grant, information will be aggregated and reviewed to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, rates of engagement and overall findings.
“The role of fathers can be paramount to a family’s stability,” said Anita Jose, PhD, director of child welfare programs at Montefiore and associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. “By studying new ways to engage dads and building on our close relationships with government agencies, we have an opportunity to break cycles of adverse childhood experiences and create new ways to care for the children and parents of the Bronx and beyond,” Jose said.