In the midst of media and public policy frenzy over pregnant women, mothers, and "crack" cocaine, a ray of sanity presented itself in the form of family rehabilitation programs set up in New York City.
During the Dinkins’ administration, new programs that kept women and children together and that proved cost effective and successful were created. When Mayor Guilliani took office, however, he promptly cut City funding for the programs. A 1996 story about the cuts was entitled “A Casulty of Deficit: Center for Addicts,” In talks I gave, I talked about the fact that the real title of the story should have been "A Casulty of Politics and Prejudice."
These programs recognized that many people with drug problems still loved and cared for their children and that addressing the woman's and the family's real needs could help them to reduce the harms of their drug use, recover and stay together. Studies of these programs found that they were very effective both in terms of cost and in terms of family preservation.
I learned only recently that one of the champions of these programs was Evelyn Castro, loving wife of Mike Arsham, the Exectuive Director of the Child Welfare Organizing Project Ms. Castro passed away last week.
As her obituary in the New York NonProfit Press explained: Castro became a pioneer in developing treatment programs for drug-addicted mothers of young children, directing one of New York City's first Family Rehabilitation Programs for LUCHA, Inc., located in Taino Towers in East Harlem, during the worst years of the crack epidemic. Her programs became models for this type of service, and she was able to replicate them, working first with Victim Services, then with SCAN-New York in the Bronx, where she served for many years as Associate Director for Preventive Services.
NAPW has, without realizing it, relied extensively on Evelyn Castro's compassion, vision and work. Whenever people asked --but what can be done if we don't punish these women? Her life's work was the answer.
In lieu of flowers, her family asks that people please make donations to SCAN-New York, 345 East 102nd Street-3rd Floor, New York, NY 10029.