HUNTINGTON, W.Va (WOWK) – These days we so often hear about addiction, recovery, and rehab connected to the opioid crises surrounding us… but what about the smallest victims – the children? What, if anything is being done to help them? The statistics are staggering, so many children born drug-dependent, or children living in families struggling with substance abuse – and yet there are very few programs specifically for them.
There are so many unknowns around children impacted by the opioid epidemic and how it will affect these kids as they grow up. That is where River Valley CARES – River Valley Center for Addiction Research, Education, and Support- is trying to help.
“It’s for the children, it’s for the children and how we can impact those children at a very young age will make a huge difference in their lives and their futures,” says Suzi Brodof, executive director of River Valley Child Development Services.
The program is designed for babies 6 weeks to two years old who have been exposed to substance use disorder in some way. Many of them are hypersensitive to touch, smell and light.
“They also experience hypersensitivity with movement so large movements it causes that startle,” says Janie Fuller-Phelps, Directer of River Valley CARES.
In the darkened playrooms of the center, you will often see workers on the floor being hands-on with the children. State code requires a 1 to 4 care-provider to child ratio but often RV CARES babies need more one-on-one attention, which requires more money. They also have an observation room that will allow for researchers, childcare providers and parents from across the country to learn from this facility and continue to help in the opioid crisis. The care they provide is no cost to mothers.
The long-term outlook for some of these children is still very much unknown.
“This is an original program and so it’s kind of like I am inventing different things so as we are presented so as we are presented new challenges it’s just the idea of overcoming new challenges,” says Fuller-Phelps who continues to develop the curriculum as she observes.
RV CARES is looking for funding so they can continue to provide no-cost care to these kids, which in return allows the mom’s in recovery peace of mind…in great part because childcare is hard to find for people like Tara Noe who are looking for work or attending school or even treatment while their babies receive care.
“I’m just so grateful to have them as a daycare,” says Noe, “nothing but smiles since she’s been here you should see the difference.”
Noe says her baby girl’s smile really says it all. The center is a second home for Noe. She even brings in her other kids so they can learn how to take care of their baby sister.
“It is a privilege to be able to touch the lives of these children and be a part of their lives and a part of their family’s lives,” says Fuller-Phelps.
River Valley currently works with a max of 16 children and hopes to expand its program to add more age groups to its services.