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Interactions between human services programs and the opioid crisis: Child welfare

In the United States, counties that have increases in overdose deaths and drug hospitalization rates tend to also have increases in rates of child maltreatment reports, rates of substantiated reports, and foster care placements.

Parents who misuse substances tend to experience multiple issues, including domestic violence, mental illness, and histories of trauma. Treating substance misuse without also addressing these other issues is unlikely to result in families staying together.

The presentation summarized here highlighted opportunities to strengthen cross-system collaboration for infants and families affected by substance abuse, and examples of innovative policies and practices in states and communities.


  • Rates of drug overdose deaths and drug-related hospitalizations are associated with higher child maltreatment reports and foster care placements.
  • Barriers to accessing substance use treatment within the child welfare system include a shortage of family-centered treatment options and a lack of understanding among caseworkers, court officials, and other providers about how medication assisted treatment works.
  • Coordinated service delivery between child welfare and substance use treatment providers would likely improve outcomes.


Child Maltreatment & Child Welfare System, Children, Family & Partnering, Health, Mental Health & Substance Abuse, Parenting