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Using Peer Supports to Foster a Trauma-informed and Recovery-oriented Child Welfare System

NCJ Number
Date Published
December 2023
20 pages

This concept paper by the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program (COSSUP) and its partners serves as a guide for fostering a trauma-informed, recovery-oriented child welfare system through peer supports.


This publication by the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program (COSSUP), along with the National Council for Mental Wellbeing and Altarum, discusses the use of peer supports to ameliorate the child welfare system. To highlight current efforts and identify recommendations to improve child welfare and family outcomes through the implementation of peer recovery support services (PRSS), this concept paper (1) provides background on the current systemic and structural issues in the child welfare system that have a disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations; (2) describes PRSS in child welfare settings, identifying the core components of programs, existing challenges, and opportunities for improvement and expansion; (3) highlights existing examples from the field; and (4) offers recommendations for a transformation of the child welfare system toward a trauma-informed, recovery-oriented system. The experience of navigating the complex and often fragmented child welfare system can lead to trauma and retraumatization for children and adults alike. To address the systemic and structural deficiencies of the child welfare system, a transformation toward a trauma-informed and recovery-oriented system needs to take place. The integration of PRSS into the child welfare system could serve as an ideal vehicle for that transformation. PRSS programs within child welfare settings provide support from individuals who have the lived experience of recovery from SUD and child welfare involvement. Peer support workers provide critical emotional, informational, and instrumental support. Child welfare-specific PRSS programs have demonstrated positive outcomes, including improved treatment completion rates and other positive recovery outcomes, reduced time spent out of the home for children, and improved family reunification rates.

Date Published: December 1, 2023