A large portion of families receiving child welfare services are coping with parental substance misuse. The following conclusions have been retrieved from a publication by childwelfare.gov. A 2009 study showed that about 12% of children in the United States live with a parent who is dependent on or misuses alcohol or other drugs. About 10% of births occur with the infant having been exposed to substances prenatally which can have severe long-term impacts on the child.
“Maternal drug and alcohol use during pregnancy have been associated with premature birth, low birth weight, slowed growth, and a variety of physical, emotional, behavioral, and cognitive problems (AIA, 2012; National Institute on Drug Abuse [NIDA], 2011).”
There are unique challenges child welfare agencies face when addressing parental substance use disorders. Some obstacles include insufficient service availability to meet existing needs, inadequate funds for services or lack of client insurance coverage, difficulties engaging parents in treatment, knowledge gaps among child welfare workers, and lack of coordination between child welfare systems and other healthcare services.
Innovative approaches and treatments do exist, including early identification of at-risk families in treatment programs, shared family care programs that connect families with a host family mentor, family peer mentors, family treatment drug courts, gender-sensitive treatment, and family-centered treatment services that involve the whole family. There are also numerous grant programs funded by The Children’s Bureau to support children and families, such as the Regional Partnership Grants.
Individualized treatment and case plans are crucial to a person or family’s recovery. Collaborative strategies with health professionals, mentors, and specialists have proven to be most successful in achieving long-term and permanent success.