When the parent of a child in out-of-home care has been affected by substance use recovery timelines are an important factor in supporting family reunification efforts. Many jurisdictions have developed specialized programs to bring child welfare, substance abuse treatment programs, and court systems together to support reunification. The following resources also include State and local examples.
Child Custody and Mothers With Substance Use Disorder: Unintended Consequences (PDF - 239 KB)
University of Washington, Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute
Describes how alcohol or drug addicted mothers who do not complete treatment are likely to use again and how alcohol/drug treatment combined with support services from child welfare systems can help interrupt this pattern of unintended consequences. Guidelines for how and when to consider reunification with children are also provided.
Effect of a Parenting Intervention on Foster Care Reentry After Reunification Among Substance-Affected Families: A Quasi-Experimental Study (PDF - 578 KB)
Akin, Brook, Lloyd, & McDonald (2017)
Child Maltreatment, 22(3)
Provides findings from a study on the relationship between parents participating in an intervention program and children reentering into the foster care system. The study concludes with policy and practice recommendations.
Guidance to States: Recommendations for Developing Family Drug Court Guidelines (PDF - 2,796 KB)
Children and Family Futures & U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2015)
Provides 10 recommendations for practices and principles for developing and sustaining family drug courts that lead to positive outcomes for children and families, including family reunification. The guidance includes information on complying with the Indian Child Welfare Act, steps to develop State guidelines and standards, and more.
Helping Families Stay Intact
Mental Health America
Lists strategies advocates can use to help keep parents with mental illness and their children together. This includes advocating for specialized services for parents with serious mental illness, facilitating parent-child visitation during hospitalization, and more.
How Does Family Drug Treatment Court Participation Affect Child Welfare Outcomes? (PDF- 352 KB)
Gifford, Eldred, Vernerey, & Sloan (2014)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(10)
Examines how parental participation in the Family Drug Court program affects the length of time for their children in foster care and whether participation in Family Drug Court affects reunification rates for youth in foster care. Findings showed that parental completion of a Family Drug Court program was associated with reduced lengths of stay in foster care, but reunification patterns varied, and children whose parents completed these programs were more likely to be reunified.
Plans of Safe Care: An Issue Brief for Judicial Officers (PDF - 409 KB)
National Quality Improvement Center for Collaborative Community Court Teams & National Center for State Courts (2020)
Provides guidance to judicial officers on implementing plans of safe care to address the health needs of substance-exposed infants and their families.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 834KB)
Reasonable and Active Efforts, and Substance Use Disorders: A Toolkit for Professionals Working With Families In or At Risk of Entering the Child Welfare System (PDF - 378 KB)
National Quality Improvement Center for Collaborative Community Court Teams & American Bar Association, Center on Children and the Law (2020)
Provides information for legal professionals about the reasonable and active efforts requirements, examples of how to meet those standards, and ways to use reasonable efforts to support families affected by substance use disorders.
What Are Some of the Strategies Being Used to Reunite Families With Substance Use Disorders?
Casey Family Programs (2017)
Highlights a number of key issues child welfare agencies must consider when developing strategies to support reunification with families in substance use treatment and recovery.
0–5 Reunification for Parents With Addictions (PDF - 721 KB)
Youth Advocate Programs, Inc. (2016)
Provides information on an intervention model for parents in Pennsylvania with substance abuse and addiction issues that focuses on reunification and recovery support. The program involves matching a recovery advocate with each family that works to address the parent's needs and help with addiction issues and parenting skills.
Eighth Judicial District Court Specialty Court Programs
Eight Judicial District Court Clark County, Nevada
Describes Clark County’s specialty Treatment Court Model, which is designed to engage individuals with substance use disorder histories in counseling, supervision, and education to improve outcomes for children and families.
Family Recovery and Reunification Program: Intensive Case Management for Substance-Involved Parents With Children in Foster Care (PDF - 184 KB)
Illinois Department of Child and Family Services (2017)
Describes the Illinois Department of Family Services' Family Recovery and Reunification Program, which helps children who have been removed from their parents due to substance use-related abuse or neglect. The goal of the program is to reunify families when parents can provide a safe and drug-free home for their children.
Matching Service to Need: How Family Drug Courts Identify, Assess and Support Families to Achieve Recovery, Safety, and Permanency (PDF - 789 KB)
National Family Drug Court Training and Technical Assistance Program (2016)
Discusses the implementation of adult drug court experiences, literature, and research into the development of Family Drug Courts in California.
Public Children Services Association of Ohio
Explores Ohio's efforts to address the opiate epidemic and how parental addiction can impact permanency for children in foster care in that State. The brief also includes policy recommendations that would help with family reunification.
Regional Partnership Grant Program
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare
Provides reports, syntheses, webinars, and other information on the Children’s Bureau discretionary grantees focused on improving well-being, permanency, and enhance the safety of children affected by substance use disorders. The website includes an interactive map that features site-specific information on grantees.
Transitioning to a Family-Centered Approach: Best Practices and Lessons Learned From Three Adult Drug Courts (PDF - 979 KB)
Children and Family Futures & National Drug Court Institute (2017)
Examines three drug courts from Florida, Michigan, and Montana that are in the process of transitioning from a traditional drug court to one that has expanded services for families and children and focuses on interagency collaboration.
What Is Connecticut’s Family-Based Recovery Program?
Casey Family Program (2019)
Details an intensive, in-home treatment program for parents with substance use disorders with children in foster care or at-risk for removal.