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June 2018Vol. 19, No. 5The Relationship Between Substance Use Indicators and Child Welfare Caseloads

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation released a research brief presenting the results from a statistical analysis that outlines the relationship between substance use and child welfare caseloads.

Researchers conducted 188 interviews in 11 communities across the United States to try to understand the experiences of child welfare administrators and practitioners, substance use treatment administrators and practitioners, judges and other legal professionals, law enforcement officials, and other service providers with regard to their community's response to substance use among parents involved in child welfare. They looked at select indicators of substance use, such as overdose rates and rates of drug-related hospital stays and emergency department visits. In addition, the research team looked at the changes in foster care rates these local professionals were seeing in their service populations, their methods for substance use assessment and treatment, collaborative activities among key stakeholders in addressing families' complex needs, areas of success, and barriers to success.

The brief presents the following findings:

  • Counties with higher overdose and drug hospitalization rates have higher caseload rates.
  • Increases in rates of overdose deaths and drug-related hospitalizations are linked to higher percentage of children entering foster care after reports of child abuse or neglect.
  • Opioid-related hospitalization rates have a relationship with caseload rates comparable to that of other substance types, with the exception of alcohol, which has a stronger positive relationship.

This research brief, The Relationship Between Substance Use Indicators and Child Welfare Caseloads, is available at (390 KB).