Dr. Nicole Racine and team receive $1.2 million from CIHR to evaluate a program supporting substance-using mothers and their young children to prevent adverse childhood experiences

Faculty of Social Sciences
mother and daughter drawing
Image by Freepik
UOttawa’s Faculty of Social Sciences and the Office of the Vice-Dean, Research are pleased to announce that Dr. Nicole Racine and her team have been granted $1.2 million by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to study the benefits of Mothercraft’s “Breaking the Cycle” (BTC) program: an award-winning program that serves substance-using mothers and their young children at risk for exposure to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).

Co-led by Dr. Debra Pepler (York University) and Margaret Leslie (Canadian Mothercraft Society), this team grant aims to understand whether the BTC program enhances mental health outcomes for young children, as well as its associated long-term cost savings. BTC is a one-of a kind program in Canada for substance-using mothers that specifically targets the mental health of young children and the mother-child relationship. 

The $1.2 million grant coincides with the appointment of Dr. Racine as uOttawa Faculty of Social Sciences and CHEO Research Institute Research Chair in Child and Youth Mental Health. As Research Chair, Dr. Racine will leverage the grant to examine whether infants at BTC have lower ACEs and better mental health outcomes than infants in different programs. The research will also evaluate benefits for children as changes in parenting behaviour, stress, and mental health for mothers occur. As a result, the research and mandate of Dr. Racine will inform the practices in child and youth mental health at the local, national, and international levels and will advance research-based approaches for treatments and interventions supporting children’s well-being in the context of risk. 

“The "Breaking the Cycle” project has the potential to position Canada as an international leader in infant mental health and improve mental health outcomes for children exposed to ACEs,” Dr. Racine. 

This project is in collaboration with the Breaking the Cycle Program, individuals with lived experience, and researchers at York University, Brock University, the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, and the Centre of Excellence on Women's Health. 

“Canada lags behind other wealthy nations with regards to investments, policies, and practices that support early child mental health. This research is a first step in closing the gap for young children exposed to adversity in Canada.”, Dr. Racine.