Academic journal article Child Welfare

Parenting Services for Families Affected by Substance Abuse

Academic journal article Child Welfare

Parenting Services for Families Affected by Substance Abuse

Article excerpt

This article describes the development, implementation, and replication of a group-based parenting program for families affected by substance abuse. The Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery improves parenting, as measured on objective scales; enhances parents' satisfaction and competence, as measured by participant reports; and is based on principles demonstrated to be effective in reducing risk of both child abuse and neglect and substance abuse for both parents and children.

This article describes the development, implementation, and replication of a group-based parenting program for families affected by substance abuse, the Nurturing Program for Families in Substance Abuse Treatment and Recovery. Developed as a result of a federally funded demonstration project for pregnant and parenting women in substance abuse treatment, this program represents significant changes in substance abuse treatment services and increases the ability of child welfare and substance abuse service systems to coordinate service planning. Background

Until the late 1980s, most substance abuse treatment programming was based on a model of service for the single male, with little attention paid to parent-child relationships or indeed to other familial or affiliative relationships [Finkelstein 1996]. Few treatment programs existed for women, and most of those that did exist were also based on this "single individual" model. At the same time, the child welfare service system and the substance abuse treatment system, often serving the same clients, interacted peripherally, and it was uncommon to find joint program or service planning [Finkelstein 1993,1994].

In the late 1980s, two factors arose that altered this picture. One was the growing recognition that substance abuse treatment for women had to address relational issues, including parenting, to fully respond to women's needs and therefore promote successful treatment outcomes. At nearly the same time, the crack "epidemic" raised serious concerns about the effects of perinatal exposure to drugs and the need to provide specialized substance abuse treatment for pregnant and parenting women. This "epidemic" highlighted the fact that a large proportion of child welfare caseloads were families affected by substance abuse, a fact that continues to be true, with estimates that up to 80% of the caseloads are currently affected by substance abuse [CWLA 1998].

The demonstration project, which was the impetus for the development of this program, was innovative in its integration of parenting and parent-child services into substance abuse treatment. One effect of this integration was to increase coordination and planning with child welfare agencies serving the same families. Initially this coordination occurred between the programs involved in the demonstration project and local child welfare agencies. The demonstration project, however, heralded an increase in substance abuse treatment programs serving women with children and families, leading to more systemic coordination. In light of the time limits imposed by the Adoption and Safe Families Act (P.L. 105-89) and the steady high percentage of child welfare involved families affected by substance abuse, improvement and expansion in coordination and joint service planning becomes critical.

This article describes the three phases through which this program was developed and tested.* Phase I summarizes the demonstration project, with a focus on the parenting program used and its effectiveness measures. This demonstration project formed the foundation for the development of the new project. Phase II describes the creation of the program, including rationale and content. Phase III describes the implementation and replication of the program throughout the Massachusetts publicly funded substance abuse treatment system for women and families. This phase also includes preliminary results of early evaluation efforts. …

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