Parent-Child Assistance Program
The Parent‐Child Assistance Program (PCAP) is an evidence‐based home visitation case‐management model for mothers who abuse alcohol or drugs during pregnancy. Its goals are to help mothers build healthy families and prevent future births of children exposed prenatally to alcohol and drugs.
Director: Therese Grant, Ph.D.
Our Background and Vision
In the mid‐1980’s when cocaine was a popular drug of choice, Dr. Ann Streissguth and her research team at the University of Washington Fetal Alcohol and Drug Unit were awarded a federal grant to study the effects of prenatal cocaine exposure on infants and young children. The research protocol involved enrolling 500 high‐risk mothers who had abused cocaine during pregnancy, interviewing them, and bringing their babies into our lab for periodic neuropsychological and other assessment.
Study findings confirmed our hypothesis that prenatal cocaine exposure is not a good thing, but in many ways the most important lessons were those we learned directly from the mothers themselves. We listened carefully as we spent time with them in their cramped apartments listening to stories of family dysfunction that seemed horrific to young researchers, but were “just the way it is” to them. These mothers wanted to be “good mothers” but they were instead giving their babies the same kind of upbringing they had experienced as children. They didn’t know any other way.
As the cocaine study came to an end, a compelling challenge that faced our research team was how to work in a meaningfulway with the high‐risk mothers who delivered these babies. Under Dr. Streissguth’s mentorship, the PCAP model was developed in 1991 because we understood that these mothers were themselves the abused, neglected, and deprived children of just a decade or two ago. Turning our backs on them because they are difficult to work with does not make their problems go away. It does ensure that these women will continue to experience a host of problems associated with intergenerational substance abuse, and continue to bear children who suffer in turn. PCAP undertook the challenge to find a way to connect with this population.
PCAP’s primary aims are:
- to assist substance‐abusing pregnant and parenting mothers in obtaining alcohol and drug treatment, staying in recovery, and resolving myriad complex problems related to their substance abuse;
- to assure that the children are in safe, stable home environments and receiving appropriate health care;
- to link mothers to community resources that will help them build and maintain healthy, independent family lives;
- to prevent the future births of alcohol and drug‐affected children.