I’ve always wanted to help others, to serve something greater than myself and to make a difference. When I was younger, I always wanted to be involved in humanitarian efforts and dreamt of being part of Nurses Without Borders (NWB). Taking off to South America for example, to help those that are in need. But, despite that desire, I decided to build a family instead. A few years later, an acquaintance of mine mentioned a nursing position in a drug addiction rehabilitation centre in the Laurentians. I didn’t hesitate and jumped onboard. And with that, I’ve now been with Portage for 15 years.
I started working with the adult and adolescent programs at the Lac Echo residential centre. The “Adult Women” program also included a “Mother and Child” aspect at the time. I decided to completely engross myself in my work by earning certifications in substance abuse, mental health as well as community health. I was completely hooked and was entirely satisfied with my work. Seeing the Lac Echo residents evolve and build self-confidence was a source of motivation. In 2013, I was offered the Director of Nursing position. In my new role, I coordinated policies, healthcare procedures in addition to managing the nursing staff. There were 12 nursing assistants in all, under my management.
Three years later, the opportunity to direct the Mother and Child program was offered to me. 10 years prior to that, the program had been relocated to Montreal in brand new offices. I had started my DESS before getting this role, while I was still performing my duties as the Director of Nursing. I decided to take on the new challenge while continuing my studies. I’m now hoping to obtain my Master’s degree in June 2019.
The Mother and Child program is unique to Portage, where the presence of children (25 in all) brings an interesting dynamic to the rehabilitation process. Mothers suffering from substance abuse issues often decide to come to therapy for one reason : fear of losing custody of their child. In the 6-month program, we help them to develop or strenghen the parental bond with their child. We work on a daily basis with the mothers to help them create solid life plans, free from addiction, that they can maintain once the residential component of the program is finished. The ultimate goal, of course, is to develop stability in their life in order to better manage their parental responsibilities.
The Portage approach is based on the therapeutic community. Thanks to the support offered by the members of the community, our clients support each other’s growth. They learn from each other, from their counsellors, and most importantly, from themselves. What’s incredible with the Mother and Child program is that the presence of the children tie in easily to the community. During the day, the mothers work together to resolve their substance abuse issues while their children are at daycare. In the evening, the mothers are with their children putting what they’ve learned into practice.
Thanks to the children, the program is very dynamic! We do a lot of activities to develop the parental competencies, like going to the park, to cafés, the museum or even to festivals, for example. The weekends, the mothers are with their children all day and have the occasion to live everyday situations. I would say that there’s a great family spirit in the program!
For Christmas, we try to do a lot of activities like decorating the Christmas Tree and the rooms. We have a gift exchange and we also organize a day where Santa Claus comes to the centre to distribute gifts to the children. Every year, we have a holiday meal with the residents and the employees on New Year’s eve, which also provides the opportunity to get together, share good times, in a context other than therapy.
If I were to describe my relationship with these women, I would say that as the Director of the program I’m there to support the Mother and Child team. The door to my office is always open, no matter if you’re a resident or a staff member, and it will always be. Finally, the 2-year aftercare follow-up that is offered to anyone that finishes the Portage program enables us to see their progress once they’ve left the residential program. We see the children grow and how far these women have come.
Genviève Minville, Portage Mother and Child Director