The foster care system in the United States is sadly and undoubtedly inundated with children in need of a safe home. Renewal House, in the Bordeaux neighborhood of north Nashville, is doing great work to help fight this unfortunate trend by giving a hand up to mothers who might otherwise be condemned as unfit to raise their children. Founded in 1996 by two volunteers in the juvenile court system, Renewal House is a campus of apartment complexes available for women in active drug and alcohol treatment or subsequent sober living and their children. It has helped over 650 families start to get back on their feet and is witnessing its resources grow.
Accommodations and Food
The residential program of Renewal House occupies 17 two-bedroom apartments, each accommodating one woman and her children who range in age from newborn to 10 years old. There are 15 more sober living apartments available for those women who have completed the program but want to continue residing in a safe, drug-free environment. This program is for mothers in dire straits only; if there are men in the picture they are not permitted to reside with their families.
The apartment complexes are surrounded by green space, giving the facility a college campus type atmosphere. There is a common playground and an indoor playroom for the kids in addition to a community space for the women which is full of desks with computers and other educational resources. Most of the modestly furnished residential program apartments are stocked with basic household items (kitchen supplies, linens and cleaning supplies) arranged through community donations. All of the baby necessities are provided free of charge as well.
Beyond the weekly family meals incorporated into the treatment program, mothers cook for their children at home. The staff makes sure each kitchen is stocked with a week’s worth of groceries for new arrivals. After that, the women are expected to provide for themselves; most of them are eligible for WIC or food stamps and they are assisted in finding work. If there is an urgent need situation, they have access to a community food pantry on campus. Grocery store runs are made three times a week and gift cards are supplied when needed. No one goes hungry.
Treatment and Staff
There are two main programs at Renewal House: The Family Residential Program and the outpatient program, which consists of Women’s Licensed Treatment IOP and Pregnant and Postpartum IOP. Participation in the residential program is determined through urgent need and there is often a waiting list. Each of these programs focuses on addressing addiction and co-occurring disorders as well as how to raise a family. Alongside the standard 12-step meeting facilitation, there’s group therapy and individual therapy, DBT, family therapy and relapse prevention education as well as parenting and general life skills classes, cooking classes, domestic violence education, financial advice and tips for better organization. Clients also receive GED prep (when appropriate) and job searching/resume tips. This is a working program; clients commit to 12 to 18 months of residential treatment, working while undergoing group and individual therapy.
“Celebrating Families!” is a unique creation of the team at Renewal House and it’s open to all families in the community and all family members of the women on campus. What makes these therapy sessions unique is that everyone sits down for a healthy meal together before the educational portion of the evening begins. After dinner, the families break into groups and explore different themes and then reconvene to share with the bigger group what they learned. The children of the women in residence are often incorporated into the bulk of treatment. Renewal House conducts parent-child interactive therapy, children’s case management and developmental assessments.
As mentioned, there is usually a waiting list for the residential program at Renewal House. The good news is women on that waiting list are qualified to start immediately receiving treatment through the IOP program. In order to qualify for the sober living apartments, a woman must have proof of income and a minimum of six months of sobriety. Housing in the sober living apartments on campus is not guaranteed upon completion of the residential program but if it’s not available, Renewal House helps graduates secure affordable housing post-treatment.
Renewal House employs 22 full-time staff members including administration, case managers, addiction consultants, a psychiatrist, a registered nurse and licensed MFTs. There are separate clinical teams for women, children and overall mental health, meaning women in the residential program have access to some sort of staff 24/7. There is no detox unit here.
It’s no wonder there is a waiting list. The situation Renewal House offers–affordable help while still being able to live with your children, access to a full community of other women with the same struggle and immediate professional guidance outside one’s door—is an invaluable opportunity for those women ready and able to start the path to recovery with their families by their sides.
3410 Clarksville Pike
Nashville, TN 37218
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