Academic journal article Child Welfare

Predictors of Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment Completion for Parents Involved with Child Welfare: One State's Experience in Matching across Systems

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Predictors of Substance Abuse Assessment and Treatment Completion for Parents Involved with Child Welfare: One State's Experience in Matching across Systems

Article excerpt

Parents with substance use disorders face persistent and serious difficulties in child welfare systems (CWS). An estimated 50% to 80% of child welfare cases involve parental substance abuse (Young, Boles, & Otero, 2007), and 8.3 million children have at least one parent with a substance use disorder (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration [SAMHSA], 2009a). Children involved in CWS who have parents with a substance use disorder are more likely to experience lengthier stays in out-of-home placement, recurrent involvement with CWS, and lower rates of reunification (Brook &McDonald, 2007; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [USDHHS], 1999).

Families in CWS that are also dealing with substance use disorders frequently have multiple needs, exhibiting other stressors that hinder treatment engagement and reunification (Choi & Ryan, 2006; Grella, Hser, & Huang, 2006). These include issues with mental health, domestic violence, and poverty, all of which affect parental participation in and completion of substance abuse treatment (Grella, Needell, Shi, & Hser, 2009). In addition, regulations from the 1997 Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) require permanency hearings to take place within 12 months of a child being placed in foster care, making parents with substance use disorders particularly vulnerable to losing their parental rights (Green, Furrer, Worcel, Burrus, & Finigan, 2007). Due to ASFA guidelines, there is increased pressure on CWS and alcohol and other drug systems (AODS) to provide timely assessments and treatment for parents with substance use disorders.

Emergent models for effective collaboration, especially for complex systems such as CWS and AODS, improve outcomes for families with substance use disorders. Indeed, interagency collaboration between CWS and AODS plays an important role in addressing issues of parental substance use disorders and family reunification (Drabble, 2007; Green, Rockhill, & Burrus, 2008). However, there are unique challenges that act as barriers to effective collaboration between CWS and AODS, including differences in how these systems define clients, case-plan goals, timelines, staff training and education, funding barriers, and shortages of available treatment services (Osterling & Austin, 2008). To date, few studies have examined the effect of interagency collaboration on substance abuse assessment and treatment completion of parents involved with child welfare. The purpose of this paper is to: (a) describe a statewide, cross-system collaborative program designed to provide targeted substance abuse assessment and treatment to parents engaged in the child welfare system; (b) document the specialized assessment and treatment outcomes for parents engaged through this collaborative program; and (c) determine factors related to successful treatment completion for parents involved with child welfare.

Interorganizational Collaboration Theory

This study was guided by interorganizational collaboration theory (Alter & Hage, 1993) that elucidates the motivation and grounds for interagency collaboration between CWS and AODS. Based on this theory, we identified the core components of implementing crosssystem collaboration between CWS and AODS as follows: (a) stationing AODS staff in child welfare offices, (b) creating joint case plans between CWS and AODS, (c) using official committees to guide collaborative efforts, (d) offering training and cross-training, and (e) establishing protocols and policies for sharing confidential information (Osterling & Austin, 2008).

Child Protection Substance Abuse Initiative (CPSAI)

An example of interorganizational collaboration is among New Jersey's Department of Children and Families, Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP),and the Department of Human Services'Division of Addiction Services in their Child Protection Substance Abuse Initiative (CPSAI) program. …

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