Parents involved with child welfare that have substance use (SUD) are often engaged with multiple systems including child welfare, SUD treatment, and the courts. To help families navigate these services and requirements, they can be assigned a Family Peer Mentor (FPMs). What is an FPM, what do they do, and are they helping families with parental SUD stay together?
An FPM is someone in long-term SUD recovery1 who also has experience with the child welfare system. They also complete a certification training program1 to learn how to apply their own experiences to help other families. The FPM is the family advocate, connecting the family to needed services and as emotional support promoting sober parenting. The relationship between the FPM and the family is collaborative with the shared goal of achieving parental sobriety and family safety and stability. FPMs are uniquely positioned not only to help families navigate the child welfare system, but also to provide the hope and motivation needed to achieve and maintain sobriety.
To better understand how FPMs help child welfare involved families, a study2 was conducted of the services and outcomes of 28 FPMs involved in the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) in Kentucky. Each FPM was partnered with one child welfare caseworker, and this FPM/caseworker team served 12-15 families. This study shows the importance of FPMs in promoting family unification and parent sobriety:
The study also highlights the importance of supporting FPMs’ own sobriety as they transition from child welfare client to an employee supporting families through a very stressful situation. Of the 28 FPMs, 10 had a relapse or other ethical/policy violation that resulted in their removal; however, the remaining 18 FPMs realized stability and growth either with the child welfare agency or with other, more advanced positions.
With the goal of parental sobriety and family unification, the use of FPMs shows excellent promise. Kentucky START and programs using FPMs or peer supporters are not only helping families; these programs are keeping more children from entering out-of-home care while also giving individuals in recovery an opportunity for steady, full-time employment that appreciates their child welfare and SUD experience to help others.
1Click here for more information on The Ohio Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (OhioMHAS) certification for Peer Recovery Supporters in Ohio: (https://workforce.mha.ohio.gov/Workforce-Development/Job-Seekers/Peer-Supporter-Certification).
2Huebner, R. A., Hall, M. T., Smead, E., Willauer, T., & Posze, L. (2018). Peer mentoring services opportunities and outcomes Huebner 2018.pdf. Children & Society, 84, 239–246.