Innovative model to help at-risk mothers and their infants comes to Maine

The John T. Gorman Foundation has awarded a $130,000 grant to the MaineGeneral Medical Center’s Edmund N. Ervin Pediatric Center (EEPC) to implement an innovative model for helping at-risk mothers and their infants.

Developing an early connection with a caregiver is one of the fundamentals things an infant needs for a healthy start to life. But that kind of strong connection can be more difficult to create for families dealing with substance use disorder, a history of mental health diagnosis, involvement with the child welfare system or other related factors that might negatively impact parenting.

“Many parents today are struggling with mental health and substance use problems, which can seriously interfere with their ability to connect with their infant in the sensitive, nurturing, consistent way that they, in their heart of hearts, very much want to,” said Dr. Lindsey Tweed, MD, MPH, child psychiatrist at the Edmund N. Ervin Pediatric Center.

Developed by Dr. Mary Dozier at the University of Delaware, the evidence-based Attachment and Biobehavorial Catch-up (ABC) model has shown itself to be an effective tool for overcoming those challenges. The parent coaching program helps caregivers develop the sensitive, nurturing connection their infants need for healthy brain development, emotional regulation, and reduced stress.

The Foundation grant will help Maine General bring the ABC program to Maine, providing home-based services for up to 40 at-risk mothers and their infants in Kennebec and Somerset counties. Health educators will meet with each mother in her home beginning at six months into her pregnancy.

“A primary goal of the John T. Gorman Foundation is ensuring that more Maine children get a strong start in life – which begins with helping parents become the best caregivers they can be,” said John T. Gorman Foundation President and CEO Tony Cipollone. “Nationally and in other countries, the ABC model has shown very positive results in helping at-risk mothers form deeper bonds with their infants, a key factor in a young child’s healthy development. The Foundation is proud to help MaineGeneral implement this innovative program in Maine, where we hope it will bring the same positive outcomes to mothers and their children. If it does, we also hope that it’ll become a model for other communities to emulate.”

The funds will support the training, certification and equipment for two part-time health educators, technical assistance from Dr. Dozier and her team at the University of Delaware, and supports to help respond to families’ emergency needs.