• March 2018
  • Vol. 19, No. 2

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Well-Being Outcomes and Co-Occurring Parental Substance Use Following a Maltreatment Investigation

Parental substance use can have a wide range of negative consequences for children, such as an elevated risk of abuse and neglect, as well as poor mental, emotional, physical, and developmental outcomes. A recent article in Children and Youth Services Review describes a study that aims to understand the differences in child well-being among families investigated for maltreatment with children who remained at home with a substance-using caregiver compared with families investigated for maltreatment with children who remained at home without a substance-using caregiver in the home.

The study used nationally representative data of children aged 6-12 who lived in a home with at least one substance-using biological or adoptive parent versus children who lived at home with parents who did not use substances. These data were gleaned from a secondary analysis of the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW II), which included all children in the United States who were investigated for child abuse and neglect by child protective services. Items from the NSCAW II Caregiver and Caseworker instruments were used in the study, as they are the appropriate instruments for assessing well-being in middle childhood. In addition, information about caregiver substance use was collected from the Caseworker instrument, which was completed by the caseworker responsible for the child's maltreatment investigation.

Findings from the study indicate that there was no difference in well-being between children who remained at home with substance-using parents and those whose parents did not use substances. These results were a departure from the researchers' initial hypothesis that among children investigated for maltreatment and remaining at home, those with substance-using parents would show lower mean levels of well-being at the 36-month follow up compared with children whose parents did not use substances. Furthermore, because there were no significant deficiencies in well-being among the children in the study, researchers suggest that at-home care, with or without a substance-using caregiver in the house, may still be the most beneficial approach to child welfare.

These findings may have implications for out-of-home placement practices. The researchers suggest that although agencies should continue to adequately screen for risk factors, it may be more beneficial to keep the child at home and preserve the family with a proper safety plan in place, since out-of-home placements can have negative effects for children, especially when multiple placements occur.  

"Remaining Home: Well-Being Outcomes and Co-Occurring Parental Substance Use Following a Maltreatment Investigation in Middle Childhood," by Rebecca Orsi, Samantha M. Brown, Kelly E. Knight, and Audrey M. Shillington (Children and Youth Services Review, 84), is available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190740917307405.
 

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