2015 Year-End Giving: Stabilizing the lives of drug-dependent women and their kids

Recovery from drug dependence is challenging in its own right, but even more grueling for women, as traditional treatment programs rarely take into account the additional burden of pregnancy or caring for children. Residential treatment programs that understand the woman’s, and her child’s, needs have markedly better outcomes than traditional ones: increased abstinence from alcohol and illicit drugs, fewer days of experiencing mental health symptoms, and healthier outcomes for kids. Here’s one program giving high-risk, high-need women—and their children—a fresh start.


More than 90% of women at this Milwaukee, WI-based treatment center have endured trauma or abuse. In addition, the women suffer from disproportionately low education, high unemployment, and frequent homelessness. Meta House offers a residential program with a wide range of comprehensive services such as therapy, prenatal care, chemical dependency education, and parenting and vocational advice. Yet, what makes this program even more impressive is its ability to help women and their kids heal together by housing its clients’ children onsite, and providing both parenting education as well as youth-related services such as a nursery and filial play therapy. Women stay in treatment for as long as they need, without the pressure of finding—and paying for—long-term childcare.


Meta House served 534 women and 245 children in 2014. Meta House clients who make it through the first two weeks of treatment have a 70% chance of completing it—roughly double the national average for treatment retention. Women who enter a comprehensive, women-specific program such as the one offered by Meta House are three times more likely to stay clean and sober six months after giving birth compared with those who didn’t receive any treatment. In addition, babies born to such program participants are nearly four times more likely to be born at full term, and more than six times more likely to be born at a healthy weight.


Donate to subsidize treatment at Meta House. Milwaukee County presently covers 75 days of a woman’s treatment at Meta House; other sources of funding are often needed to extend treatment until a woman has successfully transitioned out of the program. Meta House relies on philanthropy to fill gaps in public funding, enabling women to access the treatment they need for as long as they need it.  Three months of specialized treatment for a pregnant mother, newborn and additional young child costs $6,750 in private, philanthropic funds.


To find similar programs in your community, see our list of recent grantees from SAMHSA’s Services Grant Program for Treatment for Pregnant and Postpartum Women (PPW). The federal government has recognized these as high-quality programs.


Look for programs with comprehensive mother and family care services such as safe housing for women and children, parenting coaching, services for children (e.g. play therapy, academic assistance), gender-specific programming, medical, mental health, and prenatal care, and a focus on addressing trauma in both women and their children.

For additional information and our analyses see our profile of Meta House in Lifting the Burden of Addiction.