Saturday, December 8, 2007


Good News: The documentary MOMS LIVING CLEAN has just received a small grant from the Open Meadows Foundation toward completion. I am also pleased to tell you that steady progress is being made with editing this feature length film.

MOMS LIVING CLEAN chronicles the two year journey of six moms in a women and children’s residential substance abuse treatment program as they transform their lives and re-enter the community. Their stories unfold against the myth that they are untreatable, and America’s war on drugs, which has sent record numbers of women to prison and their children into an overburdened foster care system. The film reveals the women’s childhood exposure to drugs, alcohol and domestic violence. These intimate portraits explore the challenges of addiction and recovery, economic hardship and motherhood. Through group work, writing assignments and the rehab program’s 20 concepts for living, the moms gain confidence, pride and integrity, develop parenting skills and become self-sufficient. This groundbreaking film makes the case for whole-family treatment, where mother and children stay together, as an alternative to incarceration and breaking family ties. For more information visit:

Our goals are to combat the stereotypes and stigma surrounding mothers with substance abuse issues, promote more whole-family residential treatment programs, and inspire women and men in recovery. There are less than 40 programs like this in the U.S. today. That’s not even one per state.

“I have viewed a rough-cut of MOMS LIVING CLEAN and am moved by the deeply personal and engaging stories of vulnerable mothers powerfully committed to their sobriety and to their families. The film shines the light on effective interventions for parental addiction. MOMS LIVING CLEAN will help turn the tide of stigma and punitive laws by generating community support through education and understanding about the real lives of mothers in recovery. Public opinion is critical to influencing funding of programs for family-oriented treatment, as an alternative to sentencing mothers to prison and their children to foster care.”
Malika Saada Saar, Executive Director
The Rebecca Project for Human Rights
Washington, DC

Please help us finish MOMS LIVING CLEAN in 2008. We are currently seeking $30,000 to complete editing and prepare the film for public television broadcast. While I continue to research and apply to foundations for funding, they are limited in number and very competitive. So individuals like you can make a significant difference to keep the project moving forward. A donation in any amount will go a long way.

With a $100 donation your name will be in the credits of the film. You can make a donation right now on the film’s website at . Just click on the Donation button and type in the amount you want to contribute. You will receive a Thank You letter for your generous donation from the filmmaker, Sheila Ganz.

The non-profit fiscal sponsor for MOMS LIVING CLEAN is Film Arts Foundation, San Francisco, CA. If you want your donation to be tax-deductible make your check out to “Film Arts Foundation” and send to:

Sheila Ganz, Producer/Director
Pandora’s Box Productions
1546 Great Highway, Suite 44
San Francisco, CA 94122

A few facts: Since the 1986 federal government ‘war on drugs’ mandatory sentencing, the number of women in prison has risen 400 percent and 800 percent for African American women. Most of the women and mothers incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses are suffering with substance abuse issues. The underlying reasons for addiction in 97 percent of women with substance abuse problems are untreated post-traumatic stress and/or depression precipitated by sexual and domestic violence. When a newborn tests positive for drugs they are taken away from their mother and put in foster care. Termination of parental rights has outrun actual adoptions, creating a generation of legal orphans. The children bounce from foster home to foster home, with no ties to their birthparents and no hope of adoption.

Mothers in a similar rehab treatment program attended a recent work-in-progress screening. I have a note on my computer which says, “Make them feel like they can do it.” In the written feedback from the women… four out of nine wrote that if the women in the film could do it, stay clean, then she could do it, too. The film isn’t done, yet the message is getting through!

People ask me, why am I making this film? In 1969, I was an ‘unwed mother’ and resident in a home for unwed mothers the last two months of my pregnancy where I was given no choice but to relinquish my daughter for adoption. For years I wondered, “Why can’t there be homes to help mothers keep their children?” So, after my first documentary UNLOCKING THE HEART OF ADOPTION launched on public television, I decided to find a program that does just that. Since it was completed UNLOCKING… has been distributed to adoption agencies and colleges worldwide, screened at numerous conferences around the country and changed many people’s lives. I hope that MOMS LIVING CLEAN will be even more successful. For info visit: .

Experts now agree that the most productive way for society to deal with substance abuse is to treat it as a health issue rather than punitively. By helping the mother to stay in recovery and become self-sufficient, she will be able care for her children and end the cycle of abuse and neglect. We hope you will join us in supporting whole-family treatment programs for mothers who want a chance to make a better life for themselves and their children. Thank you!

Wishing you and yours Healthy and Happy Holidays!

Best wishes,

Sheila Ganz



Suz said...

This is a wonderful effort and I am going to send a donation to Shiela. I have been touched by addiction in my family and almost lost two of my neices/nephews to the adopt-o-machine becuase of it. Fortunately, my sibling had the support of the state and other social workers who believed in family preservation first.

mary ellen said...


This seems like a wonderful project and worth supporting.

I've always felt there was a strong connection between substance abuse and a history of having been abused. This is from the current issue of The Source, the publication of The National Abandoned Infants Resource Center (NAIA), the organization started in the late 80s in response to the border baby crisis:

According to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2006) in 2003, six million women (ages 12 and older) were alcohol abusers or alchohol dependent. That same year, 2.6 million women were abusing or dependent upon illicit drugs. Addiction is a complex and challenging social and health problem that affects millions of adult and adolescent women every day. However, addiction in women's lives can no longer be discussed without acknowledging the violence in their lives. A history of being abused drastically increases the likelihood that a woman will abuse alcohol and other drugs. In one of the first studies on addicted women and trauma, 74% of the addicted women reported sexual abuse, 52% reported physical abuse, and 72% reported emotional abuse (Covington & Kohen, 1984). "Moreover, the addicted women were found to have been abused sexually, physically, and emotionally by more perpetrators, more frequently, and for longer periods of time than their nonaddicted counterparts. The addicted women also reported more incidents of incest and rape" (Covington & Kohen, 1984, p.42). More recent studies confirm that the majority of substance-abusing women have experienced sexual and/ or physical abuse (Ouimette et al., 2000).

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