Among parental substance use disorders, opioid use disorders are increasingly common. Children and youth affected by familial opioid use disorders are more likely to experience child maltreatment and neglect. They are also more likely to witness familial overdoses, thus creating often-undiagnosed trauma reactions and a need for therapeutic intervention. While Federal and State responses have expanded in recent years to address the growing opioid epidemic, local child welfare agencies remain the primary response for children and youth affected by the crisis. As a result, child welfare professionals must understand the intersecting challenges presented by the opioid epidemic and involvement with child welfare. Below, find resources about the effect of the opioid crisis on child welfare agencies, including the specific ways the epidemic affects child and family well-being, and the services and treatments proven most effective in addressing opioid use disorders.
Children in the Opioid Epidemic: Addressing the Next Generation’s Public Health Crisis
Feder, Letourneau, & Brook (2019)
Outlines how opioid-related problems can affect child health and safety and describes challenges and possible solutions to the opioid crisis.
Child Trauma and Opioid Use: Policy Implications
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2021)
Discusses how exposure to opioid use may affect children’s mental and physical health across their lifespan. This article also addresses policy implications and recommends services and resources to help children and families affected by opioid use.
Child Welfare Training Toolkit: Special Topic: Opioids
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare
Overviews signs of methamphetamine use and its effect on families. This training section, which follows module 7, helps participants understand the warning signs of methamphetamine manufacturing, the referral process, and treatment options for family members.
National Center on Substance on Abuse and Child WelfareProvides resources to better understand and implement evidence-based medication-assisted treatments to support children and families' safety, well-being, and recovery.
Opioids and the COVID-19 Pandemic
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Indian Health Service
Describes the intersection of the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic, which presents unprecedented challenges for families and communities. The webpage also details efforts made during the pandemic to expand services to vulnerable families and children.
Practical Strategies for Social Workers to Combat the Opioid Epidemic
Addiction Technology Transfer Center Network
Explores how social workers can help combat the opioid epidemic by improving access to evidence-based medications; improving access to high-quality psychosocial services; and promoting and delivering ethical, evidence-based services.
Resources to Support Families in Child Welfare Affected by Opioid and Other Substance Use Disorders [Video]
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (2018)
Features a variety of technical assistance resources, including publications, webinars, and tools that communities can use to better serve families in child welfare who are affected by opioid and other substance use disorders.
The Ripple Effect: The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Children and Families
Brundage & Levine (2019)
Milbank Memorial Fund
Describes the long-term effects of opioid use on child development and family preservation services. The report also makes recommendations on how child welfare agencies and professionals can address this issue and lessen the impact of the opioid epidemic.
State and National Opioid Fact Sheets
American Academy of Pediatrics
Compiles national and State-specific information about how the opioid crisis has short- and long-term consequences for child well-being. The factsheets also offer State and Federal policy solutions.
Supporting Children and Families Affected by the Opioid Epidemic (PDF - 1,161 KB)
Aron, Benatar, & Peters (2020)
Examines how the opioid epidemic impacts children in families affected by drug use, how parents and caregivers could be better supported, what service providers and systems need to better support families affected by the opioid crisis, and how some systems are responding.
Supporting Families Affected by Opioids
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare
Provides resources detailing best practices for linking parents and children with opioid use disorders to treatment.
Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder May Reduce Substantiated Cases of Child Abuse and Neglect
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (2021)
Explains a study that found increased availability of buprenorphine treatment for opioid use disorder predicts reductions in certain types of child maltreatment.
Understanding the Effect of the Opioid Epidemic on Child Maltreatment
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation (2022)
Presents the results of a study conducted in Washington State that showed no relationship between opioid overdose events and child maltreatment indicators. The study did show that as rates of opioid overdoses increased, opioid-exposed infants were less likely to go home from the hospital to their birth home and were more likely to be placed in out-of-home care.