Introduction to Head Start and the Opioid Crisis
Voice 1: Opioid epidemic is taking a heavy toll on ...
Voice 2: Parents are addicted, locked up, or going into treatment ...
Voice 3: What happens to their children?
Robin Gersten: The fact that this opioid crisis has really taken over so many families has really created a lot of stress for children.
Ariel: I'm Ariel. I go by Ari, and I am a drug addict in recovery and a mom.
Oh, so sweet. Like, I could love my children more than anything in this world, but when I'm using drugs and alcohol, that doesn't matter anymore. All I remember is them being like, "We can't leave your child with you like this."
Robin: We're seeing a lot more children removed from the home. We're seeing children that are raised by grandparents or aunts or uncles.
Nicole Lesniak: Family engagement is not only working with the child in the classroom, but adding in the piece of supportive services for families in their homes.
Toscha Blalock: Because you can't raise healthy young children unless the families and the community around them are supported and know how to do that nurturing, know how to do that child development, know how to get their children a good education.
Berta Velilla: We've been concerned with the number of grandparents that are all of the sudden, you know, responsible for these young children, babies and toddlers, after they've raised their own kids.
Nicole: And so, having the staff there to kind of help them through that is even more so important with this crisis.
Marcy: Three years ago, my daughter went to rehab. She would keep the kid up until 3, 4 in the morning. Because that was her schedule, because she didn't get home until 11. Where everything I did, I started to see getting undone. You know. Like, temper tantrums and, "No," and just typical 4- and 2-year-old.
Toscha: When things like that happen, we have to just provide that support to whoever is in that child's life and help them to be able to deal with what's coming next.
Woman: I think that the family engagement contract, reviewing that with mom, is my next goal.
Marcy: Reestablishing the fact that she's the parent and I'm the grandma, not the other way around.
Woman: And we can—we can—do that here. So, it's—it's a retraining of her to be a mom.
Nicole: And those staff also connect them to community resources and things like that. It adds an extra layer of stability in a life of a child.
Teacher: Is it OK to run on the playground or the muscle room?
Teacher: Yeah. In the classroom is it OK?
Berta: I think we have realized that this is an issue that no individual agency can deal with alone. It is an issue that is taxing so many of our systems. Schools, law enforcement, children's protective services, public health, mental health, Head Start. And if we all come together and share in our expertise and bring a little piece and strengthen our collaboration, that's the only way that we're going to make a difference and we're going to, you know, get somewhere.
Karen Hargis: There's numerous organizations that come together, and we all pretty much have the same mission statement of keeping children safe, making families stronger, and putting them in a community that's highly-functioning.
Berta: I think what is great to see in our communities is how we're all coming together.
Capt. Jeff Sellers: We need buy-in from the whole community to tackle this problem together. So, with Child Focus coming on board with the sheriff's office, we will be able to connect those families and those children with services that they might not have been connected with before.
Berta: Yeah, I mean the quicker we can get to the kids, the better.
Julie Herrmann: We're seeing kids younger and younger with fairly complex trauma histories who need a lot of support.
Dave Bigda: Occasionally we'll get from staff, that this is not what I signed up for, and that's an honest reaction. We all love the kids and the families, and we're trying to do the best we can.
Toscha: When you have a team that works in such a multi-faceted organization with families that have such significant needs, you really have to be thoughtful about how you support the team that's doing it.
Woman: So, what I thought we could talk about today are some of the challenges that you experience in working with your families who have substance use issues.
Toscha: And the way that we approach that in our agency is just to have a variety of support systems that we wrap around our team.
Jamilah Miller: We also have things like our Butterfly Group that supports us, you know. I'm able to go to my supervisor. I'm able to go to other advocates. So, definitely when I have a challenge, I don't keep it to myself. I always share it with others. So, I use a lot of support like my supervisor and you know, you as our mental health, just using all those things and just trying to figure out what's the best solution possible. And we just sit, and we just have a moment of, "What can we do?" How can we help? How can we move forward? How can we overcome this obstacle?
Toscha: It's not an "other" kind of situation. It's an "all of us" situation. So, we really try to make sure that we're not stigmatizing it and that we're not, you know, imagining that it only impacts the families we serve because it doesn't. It impacts us all.
Berta: We've seen many examples of individuals that are part of the Head Start family, our Head Start family, that have struggled, have gone through lots of ups and downs, but they make it. And many times, it's because of how much they care for their children. They want to be the parent that they used to be.
Ariel: And for them to be like, OK, we see it. You're doing what you need to be doing, we're gonna give you back your child. Like that's huge. Don't give up on people, you know. Because at the last second, they'll surprise you. Never in a million years did I think that I would get my son back from DCYF. Ever. People that deal with drug addicts and alcoholics on a daily basis, it's hard. It's frustrating. I can only imagine the pain that I've put people through. But god, am I happy that they stuck by me. Because if they didn't, I wouldn't—I wouldn't be here. Like, I would not be here. And then, my babies wouldn't have their mom. And I think that's like the most important part of it all. He just wants his mama.
Capt. Sellers: The way that all the different agencies are coming together and making resources available gives me hope.
Teacher: That's very pretty, Emma. That looks great.
Julie: One of my favorite Mr. Rogers' quotes is, "Always look for the helpers." And you know, we have a great team of helpers in our community that are working with our children and families who are in these difficult situations.
Child: Please. Ice cream.
Julie: So, there's always hope.
Review the many services Head Start programs can provide to support families impacted by substance use. Learn how comprehensive services and partnerships help families to increase stability and engage in recovery from addiction. Along with supporting families and children, Head Start programs also focus on supporting staff who work with children and families impacted by opioids.