According to the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (2007), child welfare workers and others who have direct contact with adults or adolescents involved with the child welfare system are in a critical position to identify substance use issues that may impact parenting and child and family safety and well-being. When substance abuse is not already evident, the answer to the question, "Is there a substance use issue?" is arrived at through a variety of sources, such as observations in the home or information gathered from neighbors or other family members. For cases in which the worker is unsure whether substance use is a problem, screening or the use of a standardized set of questions is recommended.
Once a substance use issue has been identified through screening, further assessment may be needed to determine the nature, extent, and impact of the substance use. The assessment process is longer and more detailed than screening, and it requires more experience and expertise. Assessment in both substance abuse and child welfare systems is a cumulative process of gathering and weighing information from several sources, including results from screening tools, reports from service providers, and information provided by family members themselves.
Use the following resources to learn more about screening and assessment with families affected by substance abuse.