A story and other decorations outside Freedom House in Old Louisville

Decorations outside Freedom House in Old Louisville | Photo by Darla Carter

A Louisville program that helps mothers defeat their addictions and become good parents celebrated its 200th healthy baby Monday as Volunteers of America Mid-States makes plans to replicate the program in eastern Kentucky.

Freedom House mom and baby

The mom of Freedom House’s 200th baby gazed at the child during a break from interviews with the media. | Photo by Darla Carter

The little boy, Julian, was born to a 27-year-old resident of Freedom House, a program that has been assisting pregnant and parenting moms for more than 20 years.

“While they’re with us, we want them to heal as much as possible, so that when that baby arrives they can be a sober, stable, healthy parent in every way possible,” said Jennifer Hancock, president and chief executive officer of Volunteers of America Mid-States.

VOA Recovery’s Freedom House also strives to increase women’s odds of delivering babies without neonatal abstinence syndrome, a group of conditions resulting from a child’s exposure to certain drugs before birth.

“Our goal is that our newborns come right home from the hospital with mom and they don’t have a NICU stay, they do not have a diagnosis of neonatal abstinence syndrome,” Hancock said.

The program, which has campuses in Old Louisville and Germantown, also helps women to reunite with children they’ve lost due to past issues, she said.

“It’s a good place. I love it here,” said Veronica, the mother of the 200th baby.

Volunteers of America plans to open a new arm of the program soon in Clay County, which is in eastern Kentucky. The plan includes a 16-bed residential program that’s slated to open in October and a recovery community center that’s expected to open in August. There also will be transitional housing and a workforce initiative to employ participants.

“It’s a strategy to serve as many people as we possibly can and to give the community this value-added resource,” Hancock said.

Most people who come to Freedom House have used opioids or methamphetamines before entering the program, but often they’ve been users of multiple substances, Hancock said.

To help them, some women receive medication-assisted treatment, with the goal of tapering off before the child is born, Hancock said.

Freedom House, which recently received Level of Care certification from the American Society of Addiction Medicine, also teaches participants about the disease of addiction, passes on skills to try to prevent relapse and works to get to the root of the women’s substance-use issues.

“We recognize that we can’t just treat the symptom, which is addiction,”  Hancock said. “We really have to look at … why people have found themselves on this path, and most of the women, if not all of the women that we serve here, have a history of trauma, whether that’s from childhood or trauma accumulated during their addiction.”

Participants get the opportunity to take parenting classes, learn about child safety and focus on health and nutrition, including cooking together, Hancock said.

Freedom House participant and 200th baby

Freedom House participant cradles her son, who is the program’s 200th baby. | Photo by Darla Carter

Veronica, who declined to give her last name, said Freedom House has helped to teach her things she didn’t know about parenting and to improve her attitude as well as her outlook on life.

“I’m tired of being out in the madness, just around people,” Veronica said. “… Doing drugs is not the way to live.”

Her newborn, as well as two older children, help to keep her motivated to stay on the right path, with the ultimate goal of graduating from the program.

“I want to complete something in my life besides doing the wrong stuff,” she said. “It’s time to complete (this program) and do something right.”

After all, “there’s more to life than getting high,” she said.