Many of the of the children taken into foster care every year are babies. A large part of this is due to the number of infants born to substance abusing mothers. These children have a higher risk of developmental delays as well as birth defects and feeding issues. As a result, their care can be quite expensive and often falls burden to the foster system.
Eckerd Connects and Healthy Start are forming a partnership to help at risk mothers keep their babies from going into foster care. Healthy Start has been given a $600,000 budget increase to assist with this initiative. This money will be used to place neonatal specialists in obstetrician/gynecology clinics and in the maternity wards of all Hillsborough County Hospitals to help identify first-time expecting mothers who are in need of counseling and treatment for addiction.
This additional funding will also be utilized to expand a home visit program and to set up a substance exposed newborn clinic. Mary Lee’s House will be home to this new clinic which will play an important role in connecting mothers/caregivers and baby with the help that they need to succeed; it will also serve as a medical assessment center to ensure that the babies are on track mentally and physically.