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Public Health Nurse Interventions for Women in a Dependency Drug Court


  • Ann M. Somervell, M.S.N., is a Public Health Nurse Manager for Santa Clara County Public Health Department in California. Coleen Saylor, Ph.D., is a professor at San Jose State University School of Nursing, San Jose, California. Chia-Ling Mao, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at San Jose State University, School of Nursing, San Jose, California.

* Ann M. Somervell, 6351 El Paseo Dr, San Jose, CA 95120. E-mail:


Abstract  There is an increasing number of children placed in foster care due to abuse and neglect. Parents of these children often have difficult drug abuse problems leading to the removal of their children. The cost of caring for these children is staggering, reaching an estimated $24 billion. One program in Northern California that has been created to assist parents is dependency drug court. This research utilized qualitative and quantitative data to identify the perceived needs of women who have graduated from this dependency drug court (n = 50) and what they think the public health nurse (PHN) could do to intervene in the difficult process of going through dependency drug court and reunifying with their children. Two main themes emerged from select interviews with former drug court recipients who were functioning as “mentor moms” (n = 4). Common barriers contributed to stress during recovery, and specific strategies promoted reunification and program success. Among strategies recommended by the mentor moms was a suggestion for PHNs to bridge the information gap through regular reports on the development and health of their children during the time they reside in foster care.