Improving engagement and encouraging recovery

Parents with substance use disorders and child welfare involvement often face many obstacles in accessing and remaining in treatment. Children and Family Futures (CFF) offers training and technical assistance to help tribes, states, counties, and communities implement recovery support services—either through peers with lived experience of substance use disorders (SUDs) and child welfare involvement, or by professionally-trained recovery specialists—who can help mitigate barriers, encourage parents to remain engaged in the treatment and recovery process, and meet the court requirements they face. Technical assistance involves reviewing and selecting the most appropriate program model and identifying possible funding streams for the long-term sustainability of these positions.

Many child welfare agencies and family court programs have integrated peers and recovery specialists into their service delivery models to support parents affected by substance use disorders and promote engagement into services. Peers and recovery specialists in the context of child welfare support the parent and family, coordinate services to achieve cross-agency goals of fostering adult recovery and parental capacity, strengthen adult and child bonding, and promote child safety and permanency in their caregiving relationships.1 Peers and recovery specialists offer families support to build recovery capital—the internal and external resources necessary to begin and maintain recovery—while also serving as a liaison between agencies and advocating on the parent’s behalf. A number of peer and recovery specialist program models show promising outcomes, demonstrated through research studies and program evaluations. CFF houses the National Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) Training and Technical Assistance (TTA) Program. START is an evidence-based child welfare service delivery model that pairs caseworkers with family mentors who are individuals in long-term recovery from a substance use disorder.


CFF has disseminated over 4,200 materials related to recovery support services since 2016
CFF has responded to nearly 150 technical assistance requests about recovery support services since 2016


1.8 times higher rate of sobriety for mothers who participate in the START program compared to those receiving typical treatment2
5.6 fewer months (on average) to achieve reunification for families receiving the Illinois Title IV-E Waiver Demonstration Recovery Coach program, compared to families receiving child welfare services as usual3


Through federally- and foundation-funded projects, Children and Family Futures and its small business subsidiary, Center for Children and Family Futures, produces publications, reports, Technical Assistance tools and web-based learning for the field. The following are featured resources from our work. For more resources or information related to a specific topic, please visit our resources page or click the “Request Assistance” button below or at the top of the page.

  1. Huebner, R. A., Hall, M. T., Smead, E., Willauer, T., & Posze, L. (2018). Peer mentoring services, opportunities, and outcomes for child welfare families with substance use disorders. Children and Youth Services Review, 84, 239-246.
  2. Huebner, R., Willauer, T., & Posze, L. (2012). The impact of sobriety treatment and recovery teams (START) on family outcomes. Families in Society: The Journal of Contemporary Social Services, 93(3), 196-203.
  3. Ryan, J. P. (2017). Illinois alcohol and other drug abuse waiver demonstration evaluation report. Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.