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Duke addiction treatment program reunites moms, children

Posted November 30, 2011
Updated December 1, 2011

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— A Duke University program has a track record of helping mothers break free of drug and alcohol addictions and reunite with their children.

In 2007, then-30-year-old Diana Smith gave birth to the fifth of her six children.

"I had done so much cocaine, my baby – she was 2 pounds when she was born," Smith said.

A court sent all of Smith's children into foster care and required her to seek help for her addiction through the Duke Family Care program if she wanted her children back.

"I wasn't really ready. I just thought they (were) against me, instead of helping me. I didn't want (anybody) telling me want to do," Smith said.

Counselors say the challenge is to convince women that they can actually overcome their addiction if they submit to treatment. That requires a close relationship with a drug counselor and regular drug screening.

"One way to understand addictions is that people do things that don't make sense, because the compulsion to use makes them do things to do damage to themselves and other people," said Dr. Toby McCoy, director of the Duke Family Care program.

Offered through Duke's department of psychiatry, the program treats mothers and moms-to-be regardless of their ability to pay.

After a relapse and losing her children for a second time, Smith gave the program another try.

"I was so focused on getting my kids back (that) I wanted them back before I could work on myself," she said. "I learned that I had to work on myself before I could get my kids back."

Diana Smith Duke program reunites moms, children

The Duke Family Care program has seen that kind of breakthrough many times, with long-term success.

"Ninety percent of our drug screens for the last five years running have been free of substances," McCoy said.

"I have three years clean next month — three years, no drugs," Smith said.

She has regained custody of four of her five children, as well as her youngest, a 1-year-old girl.

"I'm so grateful that I'm not living like that anymore, because I couldn't make right decisions for my kids, and now I can," Smith said.

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