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May 2009Vol. 10, No. 4Collocation: Integrating Child Welfare and Substance Abuse Services

A pilot program that placed substance abuse counselors in child welfare agencies increased the identification and engagement of substance-abusing parents involved with the child welfare system. In a recently published article, researchers describe how substance abuse counselors, collocated in child welfare agencies in four rural and three urban locations, collaborated with frontline child welfare caseworkers to improve outcomes for children and families.

Data gathered from focus groups, interviews, and administrative records show that six of the seven sites were able to implement the model. Child welfare workers who were initially skeptical became supporters of the program, and substance abuse counselors grew to see the benefit of home visits for assessing client needs. Both child welfare workers and substance abuse counselors at the six successful sites perceived that the program improved early identification of parental substance abuse, timely referral to treatment, and outcomes. Both types of staff also agreed that the collocation program improved their understanding of each other’s systems.

Suggestions for successful implementation of a collocation program include:

  • Planning, including determining confidentiality policies
  • Engaging child welfare workers and garnering their support for the program
  • Standardizing procedures
  • Having leadership for the program at both child welfare and substance abuse treatment agencies

The article, "Collocation: Integrating Child Welfare and Substance Abuse Services," by Eunju Lee, Nina Esaki, and Rose Green, was published in the Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions, Vol. 9(1).

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