Screening and Assessment for Substance Abuse Among the Child Welfare Population: Current and Promising Practices, Barriers and Options

Screening and Assessment for Substance Abuse Among the Child Welfare Population: Current and Promising Practices, Barriers and Options
August 1, 2009 Stuart Foundation

As part of the work program of the Child Welfare Council, Children and Family Futures was requested in December 2008 to review current screening and assessment practices in child welfare and substance abuse treatment agencies and suggest options for improvement. The stated goal of this effort is to improve on a statewide basis the assessment and early intervention with child welfare families who are affected by substance use disorders. The charge also included a request to address “components beyond screening that may be needed to improve how we deal with families/children impacted by substance abuse in the system.”

This paper reflects partial feedback from state agencies and selected county child welfare and treatment officials. The scope of the project includes the following:

  • Screening and assessment for substance use disorders in the child welfare population among parents;
  • Screening and assessment for the effects of substance use on children among the treatment population; and
  • Screening and assessment for adolescent substance use, abuse, and dependence among child welfare and other populations

The paper reviews the elements of screening and assessment in the child welfare system, the ways in which substance use is currently detected and recorded in California, models of promising practices in screening and assessment, available materials on the effectiveness of screening and assessment practices, barriers to improvement, and recommendations for change.