Providence House restores families to wholeness
Sounds of hope and possibility welcome visitors to the Providence House playroom on the campus of Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries (PSSM) at Georgetown, Indiana. Kelli, a single mother recovering from a drug addiction, is playing with a colorful toy full of bells and whistles with her 9-month-old daughter Ava. Watching them delight in the joy of being with each other, it is hard to believe that several months ago Kelli was struggling to overcome a drug addiction. She was struggling to become the mother she wanted to be for Ava and her two young sons. Kelli’s battle to become sober took her to A Healing Place, a detox and recovery center, in Louisville, Kentucky, a few miles from Georgetown.
“That’s where I got sober,” Kelli told me. As she proved she could maintain sobriety, she learned about and was referred to the Family Preservation Program (FPP) at Providence House. As she grew in that program, she was able to take the next step of getting her sons back.
“I am learning life skills and being held accountable to meet objectives. This program is helping me become the kind of parent I want to be for my children and to provide for them in ways that I want to and that they deserve.”
Clinical psychologist Dr. Liz England directs the Providence House Family Preservation Program (FPP). She points to Kelli as a good example of how ministries to families at PSSM continue to evolve along a “rolling horizon, (as Sister Barbara Ann Zeller, SP, – formerly Sister Dorothy Jean, chief executive officer and founder of PSSM likes to describe it) to respond to new needs as they emerge.”
Responding to addiction crisis
“In the early years of PSSM, ministries to families focused primarily on children in foster care situations. Today, for families in Central and Southern Indiana, the biggest need is treating problems of addiction and their impact on individuals and the family systems of which they are a part. One hundred percent of the referrals that we are receiving for services for families are linked to the need for addiction recovery especially from opioids and heroin. In contrast in 2013 we had almost zero such requests.”
Families are referred to FPP from the Department of Child Services in 10 counties in Southern Indiana. England says families referred to Providence House have “an opportunity to start over” because they have access to a holistic comprehensive menu of services that include housing, on-site therapy and psychological testing, parenting education, one-on-one case management and support services designed to aid participants to plan, set goals and gain self-sufficiency.
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Learning life skills
In addition to Dr. England, staff members for the program include a campus manager and a team of therapists who all have master’s degrees and are studying in doctoral programs at Spalding University or the University of Louisville.
“I am very grateful to the WHAS Crusade for Children, a local charity, for funding small stipends that we can offer to these therapists,” Dr. England said.
Each family has its own case manager who works with it on problem solving, skills for building relationships among family members and with others, budgeting, time management, accessing government assistance and community resources. They learn how to find and maintain employment, and to incorporate self-sufficiency skills into their daily and weekly lifestyles. Families typically spend six months in the Providence House program.
During the first 30 days in the program, a family lives in “dorm-like” space in the Patchwork section of Providence House. There, staff can observe how participants interact and master the various life and self-sufficiency skills they are asked to learn and apply. When deemed ready, the family is permitted to transition into a “reunification” apartment. These apartments have space and opportunities that empower residents to demonstrate they have the skills to create an environment in which they and their children can thrive.
England says this approach has proven to be very successful in enabling participants to become “accountable and to get done what they need to do to achieve their goals.” The structure of the program fosters accountability because members of the 7-10 families usually in the program at any time are seen by staff members an average of 50 or more hours weekly.
“With that much attention, it’s hard to hide from someone to whom you have to account for a goal or other activity for which you are responsible.” England says. “Our residents hold each other accountable and that’s an important part of the process too. That’s why our success rate is on average 80 percent.”
Now almost ready to complete the program, Kelli speaks confidently about moving her children and herself from Providence House into a new apartment in nearby Corydon, Indiana, sometime soon. “I really feel I have learned the skills I need to succeed. I am more disciplined in budgeting and using money. I have better ideas of how to care for myself and my children. I know more about making relationships work. I have a job in retail right now, but I hope to grow into other jobs too.”
When Kelli and her children are ready to move, she says she knows she can rely on Providence House staff and her own family to help them find the right place and what she will need to get started. “I am confident I can set goals and reach them.”
England says she hopes to host a reunion this summer of families who have completed the Family Reunification program. “It will be good to hear how they are applying what they learned here as they continue to grow with their families.”
Visit guerininc.org to learn more about family reunification and other Providence Self-Sufficiency Ministries (PSSM) at Georgetown, Indiana.