This is the fifth story in a series sharing different perspectives about how the current opioid crisis affects our town and ways people with ties to Hingham are reaching out to others to provide support and help to those who are fighting substance use disorder.
September 3, 2019 by Carol Britton Meyer
Hingham resident Brindey Marine does respite care for children who are in foster families to give their caregivers an opportunity to recharge. This could include while a carer is having surgery or just enjoying a night out.
Marine, who has two small children of her own, also provides emergency foster care for children involved with the Department of Children and Families office that serves Hingham, Hull, Cohasset, Norwell, Weymouth, and Braintree.
“Respite is basically babysitting for current foster parents — anywhere from one night to a few weeks,” she said. “The hotline is overnight, weekends, and holidays from when children come into care to when they find a placement.” She has been involved with respite work for a little over a year.
“All of the foster families I know who take in these kids are wonderful people,” Marine said. Foster family training involves taking a 10-week course “about how to care for the most vulnerable in our community — children.” Among those placed in foster homes are children who come from a family where one or both parents are struggling with substance use disorder (SUD) or a single-parent home where the parent is battling SUD.
“This is an epidemic,” she said — one that does affect some Hingham residents.
The way the hotline works, Marine could be called any time of the day or night directly following removal of a child or children from a home by DCF — often because of a substance use issue — to take the child or children into her home and care for them temporarily — from several hours to a few weeks — until a long-term placement can be found.
The children she fosters — age four and under — have come from as far away as western Massachusetts when no one living closer to that area was available and the children were in immediate danger. She welcomed another child into her family's home at 2:30 a.m. in response to an emergency situation. One example of this is a mother and daughter who overdosed together many times with a baby in their care.
There’s a case number for each child and an action plan for what needs to be completed before he or she can be returned to their own home. Some aren't able to. “There are so few resources, including not enough therapists for parents, teens, and children. No one struggling with addiction wants to be in that situation,” Marine said. “It can happen to anyone. It’s a disease. All it takes is for someone to go on oxycontin after an injury to deal with the pain only to find they can’t get off it [because they want more].”
DCF works in partnership with families and communities to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. In most cases, DCF is able to place children with family members, which Marine said is preferable. When necessary, DCF provides foster care or finds new permanent families for children through kinship, guardianship, or adoption. “Many children in foster care have siblings who are also in the system, sometimes several,” Marine said. “My goal as a foster mom is to hold their babies until they are strong enough to hold them themselves.”
Among the children she has fostered are babies who are born addicted to drugs. “Some children in that situation turn out perfectly wonderful, while others have sensory issues and need extra care from a department that has no resources,” said Marine.
That said, local support helps provide the foster children in her care with experiences similar to the ones her own children — ages 4 and 6 — enjoy, such as ice skating. For instance, some local sports facilities grant free admission to the foster kids in her care. “It’s so awesome,” she said.
Before helping families affected by SUD, Marine was familiar with the disease in a broad sense because some of the work performed by her sister, a physician in New Bedford, involves working with individuals struggling with addiction.
“Parents who are losing their children need and deserve help,” she said, noting that there are many steps they are required to take before it might be possible for them to have their children back in their family.
One of those is participating in a relapse prevention program along with other steps it takes to get and stay clean of drugs.
Because Hingham is one of the wealthier communities in the area, there’s a tendency to think the town is buffered from such problems. “We’re not,” she said. “When you live in a global community you’re not buffered. Lack of knowledge about the issue does not help. Getting rid of the stigma is a big challenge.”
Good people can have terrible things happen to them. “The stigma is not helpful. Everyone wants to help people who have cancer or other illnesses and we need to consider SUD as a disease just like you would measles or smallpox,” Marine said. “The consequences of SUD are bad, and it needs to be treated like the disease that it is.”
Caring for the whole person is important. “When you’re going through recovery, your body is screaming at you that you can’t survive without drugs, which makes the climb out of addiction so hard — especially when you’ve lost your child or children. The road to recovery is bumpy for those recovering from SUD, but a children’s life is just as bumpy — and they feel every bump,” Marine said. “Whatever we as a community can do to help is worth the effort. Whatever resources we put into this problem now will have a 10-fold benefit in the long run.”
Call 1-800-KIDS-508 to learn about how to become a foster parent or to request other information or visit mass.gov/dcf.