Identifying substance use disorders among families involved with child welfare

Children and Family Futures (CFF) offers training and technical assistance for systems work together to implement screening and assessment protocols that identify persons affected by substance use and mental disorders. Technical assistance involves helping agencies determine the appropriate validated screening and assessment tools and implement a comprehensive, collaborative screening and assessment program to assist in the successful engagement and retention of families in services that lead to positive treatment outcomes.

Research shows that prompt entry into substance use disorder treatment significantly increases the length of time parents spend in treatment and increases the likelihood of parents’ treatment completion and reunification with children.1, 2,3,4

 Parents are more likely to receive a prompt assessment and referral to treatment if the child welfare agency engages in universal screening using a validated screening tool and if there is a memorandum of understanding between treatment providers and child welfare to guarantee priority access to assessment and treatment.5 CFF has experience with supporting communities to implement universal screening and collaborative protocols for screening that ensure quick entry to substance use disorder assessment and treatment.


CFF has disseminated over 16,000 materials related to screening and assessment since 2016
CFF has responded to nearly 800 technical assistance requests about screening and assessment since 2016


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. Worcel, S. D., Green, B. L., Furrer, C. J., Burrus, S. W. M., & Finigan, M. W. (2007). Family treatment drug court evaluation: Executive summary. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
  2. Green, B. L., Furrer, C., Worcel, S., Burrus, S., Finigan, M. W. (2007). How effective are family treatment drug courts? Outcomes from a four-site national study. Child Maltreatment, 12(1), 43-59.
  3. Bruns, E. J., Pullmann, M. D., Weathers, E. S., Wirschem, M. L., & Murphy, J. K. (2012). Effects of a multidisciplinary family treatment drug court on child and family outcomes: Results of a quasi-experimental study. Child Maltreatment, 17(3), 218-230.
  4. Doab, A., Fowler, C., & Dawson, A. (2015). Factors that influence mother–child reunification for mothers with a history of substance use: A systematic review of the evidence to inform policy and practice in Australia. International Journal of Drug Policy, 26, 820-831.
  5. He, A. S. (2017). Interagency collaboration and receipt of substance abuse treatment services for child welfare-involved caregivers. Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 79, 20-28.