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Perceptions of Parental Substance Use Disorders in Cross-System Collaboration Among Child Welfare, Alcohol and Other Drugs, and Dependency Court Organizations

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 38 Issue: 5 Dated: May 2014 Pages: 939-951
Amy S. He; Dorian E. Traube; Nancy K. Young
Date Published
May 2014
13 pages
Using a sequential explanatory mixed-method approach, this study examined staff perceptions of parents with substance-use disorders (SUDs) in three agencies that often cooperate in serving families: child welfare agencies (CW), agencies that address alcohol and other drug treatment (AOD), and court organizations.
The study found that whereas CW staff typically view the child in the family to be the primary client, focusing on his/her safety and well-being, the AOD staff view the individual with the SUD as the primary client, as they focus their services on his/her recovery process. The staff of court organizations tend to share the view of CW staff, i.e., that the safety of the child in the family is of primary concern. Given these findings, the authors advise that cross-system collaborations that involve the cooperation of CW/court staff and AOD staff should acknowledge each systems differing funding and policy parameters as well as differences in the primary clients being served and/or protected. Another complicating factor in the collaboration of these three types of agencies involves the provisions of the Federal Adoptions and Safe Families Act (ASFA, 1997). ASFA require permanency hearings to be scheduled after 12 months of foster care placement. This means the CW-involved parents with SUDs are particularly vulnerable to losing their parental rights. Research should explore ASFA's impact on families with parental SUDs. Collaborations should also focus on developing family-centered guidelines and services that ensure expeditious access to treatment for CW parents with SUDs. This will be facilitated by the development of policies and practices that promote the family unit as the primary client. Effective family interventions should serve both the interests of the child at risk of maltreatment and the parent with SUDs at risk of losing a child under the time frame set by ASFA. 4 tables, 2 figures, and 45 references