clear   Appendix:   Life Givers
Fairbanks, Alaska

At A Glance

Residential treatment program for Native American girls, ages 13 to 18, who are pregnant or parenting and also recovering from substance abuse (primarily alcoholism); capacity, seven girls and their infants and toddlers; funded by Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and the State of Alaska

Operated by the Fairbanks Native Association under the umbrella of Women's and Children's Services, Life Givers was founded in 1994 in response to increasing teen pregnancy rates among Alaska Native girls (one in five Alaska Native girls becomes pregnant each year). In addition to serving teen parents, the program also attempts to improve outcomes for their infants by preventing Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Affect. Life Givers shares a new facility—including living quarters, gym, nursery, classrooms, and conference rooms—with an assisted-living program for elders. All areas incorporate Native American décor.

Life Givers is guided by the theory that culture is healing. Native culture and history provide girls with a life philosophy, a support system, and a lens through which they can view the world. The holistic program encourages girls' strength and resiliency, and promotes their physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. Fathers are encouraged to participate in treatment.

The all-female staff is predominately Native American (53 percent). Prior to providing services, staff members are required to complete a nine-month self-study course on addictions. In-house training continues weekly on issues related to female adolescence, child care, substance abuse, parenting, and other topics. Staff positions include program director, data specialist, teacher, treatment coordinator, counselor, nurse educator, child-care specialist, night monitor, and mental health specialist.

Girls who enter the program are Native American and pregnant or already parenting (no more than three years). Girls are referred by the state department of youth services, adoption agencies, mental health clinics, and other sources. Most have substance-abuse problems, and many also have a history of sexual abuse or other victimization. Girls must be positively motivated to participate in the program. Their length of stay can range from three months to one year.

Intake begins with an assessment (including detoxification, if necessary). Girls then move at their own pace through four program phases, each of which is imbued with Native values and traditions. New Beginnings is a journey from chemical misuse and abuse to recovery. Balancing focuses on holistic health, including proper nutrition and mental, physical, and spiritual wellness. Family and Community Connections integrates the father of her child and other members of the girl's family into the treatment process. Sobriety Support incorporates planning and support for long-term sobriety and relapse prevention.

Throughout their stay, girls regularly meet with Alaskan Native Elders to build intergenerational relationships and learn more about their culture. As they move through the four program phases, girls focus on cultural history, cultural awareness, cultural diversity, and cultural integration.

Skills specifically targeted for development include parenting skills; personal responsibility; time management; goal setting and planning skills; social, life, and vocational skills; and health education (including sexuality, relationships, and family planning). Each girl has a personal counselor with whom she typically has daily contact. Individual and group counseling are provided weekly, and case management is ongoing. Health care includes prenatal and postpartum care. Education is provided onsite.

The girls' infants and toddlers receive comprehensive care, including developmental assessment, individual development planning, health screening, well-baby care, and day care.

Family involvement is encouraged. As soon as a girl enters the program, a home visit is scheduled to help her parents understand the program and learn how they can help their daughter succeed. Extensive aftercare services are provided to prevent relapse, and follow-up continues for one year.

Return to Program Chart

Guiding Principles for Promising
Female Programming
October 1998