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Gaudenzia’s Claymont Center Offers Pregnant and Parenting Women Treatment – and Hope

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Even as Sarah Thompson gave birth, Xylazine was eating the flesh off her arms.

The pain from the open wounds was so great it prevented her from holding her newborn daughter, all while doctors were presenting the option of additional surgeries and arm amputation due to her addiction to Xylazine. Even worse from her viewpoint, Thompson, 39, was on the verge of losing custody of her baby.  

Crystal Cannon, 31, wrestled with heroin and marijuana for more than six years due to a family trauma. Then she found out she was pregnant. With the threat of incarceration and lacking any other support she desperately tried to commit to a life of recovery – even if it meant giving up her baby.

Thompson and Cannon had both hit rock bottom. Then they found Gaudenzia, Inc.’s Claymont Center for Pregnant and Parenting Women, Delaware’s only treatment center for women who are currently pregnant or mothers with substance use disorder.

Until the Claymont Center opened a year ago, these two women and others like them, faced a stark choice: seek lifesaving treatment and risk losing their children or fight their addiction alone. Inside the walls of the Claymont Center, however, mothers and their children can remain together receiving the treatment – and the home – that they and their children need to stay together and thrive as a family.

“I went to court and was told I could go to Gaudenzia and keep my baby,” said Cannon, who was expecting at the time of entry. “When I got there, Gaudenzia and Christiana Care threw me a baby shower and helped me get supplies I needed to help raise my daughter. They’ve been really supportive from the start.”

Claymont represents something new for a state that is in the middle of a crisis when it comes to women with substance use disorders. Consider these numbers from recent years:

  • 20% of pregnant/postpartum women in Delaware’s Medicaid program have SUDs and 10.6% of those women were addicted to opioids.
  • 70% of women entering treatment for SUD have children.
  • 2,511 substance-exposed infant births occurred between 2015-2019.
  • 1,022 children in Delaware were placed in out-of-home care due to their parents’ drug or alcohol use in 2019.

“No mother should ever have to suffer like Crystal and Sarah did,” said Kristy Blalock ​​​​, Gaudenzia Executive Director of the Chesapeake Region. “When mothers suffer, their children suffer too. It’s long past time that we turn greater attention and resources to this population of vulnerable women and children and the impact on the family structure that addiction brings.”

The Claymont Center is the result of a close partnership between Gaudenzia, the region’s largest nonprofit treatment provider for people with substance use disorder, and the state of Delaware. The project was championed by Lt. Gov. Bethany Hall-Long, and the Delaware Department of Substance Abuse and Mental Health (DSAMH). Support from state Sen. Sarah McBride and Reps. Valerie Longhurst, Melissa Minor-Brown and Larry Lambert was critical in garnering the two-years of funding needed to launch.

Since opening in the summer of 2022, Claymont has provided evidenced-based and trauma- and culture-informed care to 34 women and 25 children.

“Before Claymont opened, these women and their children would likely have been lost to an unforgiving system that too often results in families being ripped apart,” said Dr. Dale Klatzker, Chief Executive Officer and President of Gaudenzia. “Asking women to choose between treatment or keeping their children is a nearly impossible decision that can cause lasting generational damage. At the Claymont Center, we start with the proposition that keeping mothers and their children together is one of the most effective ways of breaking the cycle of addiction.”

Thompson, who was then living in New Jersey, was one of the first people to come to Claymont in July of 2022. The New Jersey Department of Children and Families had made it clear that she was on the verge of losing custody of her infant daughter. When representatives of the state’s agency later checked on her at the Claymont Center, they were impressed with her personal progress as well as the overall Gaudenzia program.  

“They said they had never seen anything like it,” said Thompson. “When I went back to court to report on my progress, they were very impressed and were willing to work with me to get back my parental rights.”

Now, she is reunified with her 15-month-old daughter, who also received support at the center, is enrolled in college courses and just completed her stay at the Claymont Center.

“It’s been a crazy journey,” Sarah said. “I just want to tell others, ‘Never give up.’ I’ve been in addiction for 15 years, but that addiction isn’t the end. I’ve learned that you deserve a good life and you can find recovery with strong support.”

Cannon entered Claymont in July 2022 while on probation. One of the first things she experienced was a baby shower.  Now, she is reunited with her daughter who turns one in August. She obtained her GED while completing treatment, has saved enough money to purchase a car, and recently secured employment.

“With the support of everyone here at Gaudenzia, I got everything I needed to get my life back,” said Cannon. “I encourage others in a similar situation to give it a try – you’re worth it. You and your children deserve a chance. If you want it bad enough, you can do it. If you come to Gaudenzia, you can get the help you need.”

Gaudenzia has long been a pioneer in this treatment area, opening one of the nation’s first residential based facilities for pregnant and parenting women – Vantage House in Lancaster, Pa. – in 1979. Gaudenzia currently offers 14 programs for pregnant and parenting women that served 639 women and 197 children last year.

Now, Gaudenzia is faced with securing the funds needed to keep Claymont going past 2024, even as Delaware continues to have the fifth-highest rate of pregnant and parenting women with SUDs in the nation.

“Sarah and Crystal embody what can happen with the right amount of support,” Klatzker said. “They are now prepared to rebuild their lives – and to do it with their children under their care. At Gaudenzia, we believe that keeping families together can truly impact generations to come while breaking the addiction cycle.”

More information on The Claymont Center for Pregnant and Parenting Women can be found at

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