Growing Together

Promoting healthy mother-child relationships: A pragmatic clinical trial for women in opioid treatment and their infants


Opioid misuse during pregnancy is an alarming public health problem resulting in maternal and child health disparities. Mothers with opioid use disorders (OUDs) often struggle and can be disengaged and challenged as parents, leading to possible child maltreatment and poor long-term outcomes.

Seeking to address the needs of women with OUDs and their infants, Growing Together will conduct a two-armed pragmatic randomized controlled trial for 100 pregnant women receiving prenatal care at Boston Medical Center’s RESPECT clinic. The research team will compare the effectiveness of BRIGHT, an evidence-informed home-based parenting intervention, to STAR, composed of the standard social services received at the RESPECT clinic and psychoeducational handouts. More specifically, the study aims to assess whether BRIGHT is more effective than STAR in improving mother-child relationships, infant social-emotional development, and parenting capacities while reducing child maltreatment. BRIGHT, a parent-infant home-based intervention will be offered from the 3rd trimester of pregnancy until the infant is 6 months old.


The project has three primary goals:

  1. to improve parent-child relationships, parenting capacities, and infant social-emotional development
  2. to reduce child maltreatment
  3. to enhance overall maternal mental health and maintenance in OUD treatment/recovery
  4. to translate findings into practice and policy through dissemination at the local, regional and national levels to stakeholders concerned about women with OUDs and their infants


Over the next two years, 100 pregnant women in their 3rd trimester will be recruited to participate in this randomized controlled trial. Approximately half of the group will receive the therapeutic parenting intervention BRIGHT, while the other half will receive STAR, which consists of 7 once-monthly handouts on infant development and substance-use recovery. All participants will complete quantitative and qualitative longitudinal measures over the course of 15 months. Measurements will be collected first in the 3rd trimester, then at 2, 6, and 9 months postpartum.


Ruth Paris, PhD, LICSW
Principal Investigator
Boston University School of Social Work

Ruth Rose-Jacobs, Sc.D, MS
Boston University School of Medicine

Ashley Short Mejia, MSW
Research Coordinator
Boston University School of Social Work

Partner: Institute for Health and Recovery, Cambridge, MA

Sponsor: HRSA (Health Resources and Services Administration)

Related Projects

Visit the grants page to learn more about Ruth’s other work:

  • Substance Exposed Newborns
  • Evaluating The Effectiveness Of Early Connections/Conexiones Tempranas: A Community Intervention For Trauma
  • Project Bright III: Evaluating The Implementation Of A Trauma-Based Intervention For Young Children And Their Parents In Recovery From Substance Use Disorders

In the News

BUSSW Professor Ruth Paris & Colleagues Tackle the Opioid Crisis’ Impact on Children and their Mothers
July 2, 2018

Paris to Unravel Best Ways to Treat Traumatic Stress in Children
November 6, 2009

Learn more

Visit our project page on the Maternal and Child Health Bureau website.