The Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act (S. 484/H.R.1909) Will Help Keep Children Safe and in Permanent Families
Millions of American children lack safe and permanent families who can help them grow into healthy and productive adults.
Alcohol and drugs (AOD) severely impact the lives of many of the families who come to the attention of the child welfare system.
- An estimated 2.9 million children annually are reported to state child protective service agencies as suspected victims of child abuse and neglect. In 1999, just over 826,000 children were confirmed abuse and neglect victims.
- A record 568,000 children were reported to be in foster care as of September 30, 1999. The average length of stay for these children is 34 months. More than half of them have been in foster care longer than 18 months.
Existing AOD treatment services are not adequate or appropriate for families in the child welfare system.
- Children whose parents abuse alcohol and drugs are almost three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children of parents who do not abuse alcohol and drugs.
- An estimated 40-80% of the families involved in the child welfare system have problems with alcohol and/or drugs.
Alcohol and drug abuse are treatable public health problems with effective remedies.
- Nationally there is a shortage in all types of publicly funded substance abuse treatment opportunities for those in need, especially for women. All states report long waiting lists for services. 63% of the people who are in need of treatment for drug abuse do not receive it.
- Just over two-thirds of parents involved in the child welfare system need substance abuse treatment, but child welfare agencies can provide treatment services for less than one-third of them.
- Substance abuse treatment services that are specifically tailored to meet the needs of women and parents are in chronically short supply. Parents with AOD problems in the child welfare system have multiple and especially complex problems. The mothers involved often face mental illness, domestic violence, health problems like HIV/AIDS, and abuse or neglect as a child, all of which pose special challenges for AOD treatment and recovery. Engagement and retention strategies require special attention to ensure completion of treatment.
Not providing alcohol and drug treatment has a high human and fiscal cost.
- Experts report that drug addiction treatment works as well as treatment for other chronic illnesses such as diabetes, asthma, and hypertension. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that nearly one-third of those in treatment achieve permanent abstinence in their first attempt at recovery. An additional one-third have periods of relapse but eventually achieve long-term abstinence, and one-third have chronic relapses that result in premature death from substance abuse and related consequences.
- The Congressionally-mandated National Treatment Improvement Evaluation Study (NTIES) reported in 1997 a 50% decline in drug use in the more than 4,400 individuals surveyed one year after treatment. Alcohol and drug-related medical visits as well as high-risk sexual behavior declined significantly among all clients. For women, the employment rate rose by 25% and involvement in illegal activities decreased dramatically. The positive trends in all of these areas have a critical impact on improved parenting skills and behavior.
- The 1992 California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (CALDATA) study showed significant declines in drug use and illegal activity of clients following treatment. Additionally, this study of more than 1,800 clients reported the measured benefit to taxpayers exceeded the cost of treatment by 6 to 1 for women with children who did not receive welfare and 2.5 to 1 for women with children who received welfare.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act renews emphasis on early decision-making to keep children safe and in permanent families.
- Children whose families do not get appropriate treatment are more likely to remain in foster care longer and to reenter care once returned home. Their siblings are also more likely to end up in foster care.
- Studies indicate that for every $1 invested in AOD treatment, $7.14 dollars are saved by reductions in health costs, violence and crime, lost work and school productivity, and social services including child abuse/neglect/foster care.
The Child Protection and Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act promotes safety and permanence for these children and recovery for their parents.
- The bipartisan Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), enacted in 1997, promotes safety and permanence for children by expediting timelines for decision-making. That law requires that a court review plans for a childŐs permanent living arrangement within 12 months of the date that a child enters foster care. It also requires that if a child is in foster care for 15 of the most recent 22 months, that a petition to end a parentŐs rights to the child must be filed, unless certain exceptions apply.
- To ensure that permanency decisions can be made for children whose families have AOD problems, special steps must be taken to begin services and treatment for the family immediately upon a childŐs entry into foster care. Studies show that a primary motivator for mothers to enter treatment is to keep or regain custody of their children.
For a complete copy of the bill on the Internet, go to http://thomas.loc.gov and type in S. 484/H.R. 1909..
- S. 484/H.R. 1909 offers $1.9 billion over five years to state child welfare and AOD agencies that agree together to take steps to develop and increase treatment services, establish appropriate screening and assessment tools, or improve strategies to engage and retain parents in treatment and provide after-care support. The activities must be directed to families with AOD problems who come to the attention of the child welfare system. Agencies also can use the funds to increase capacity to meet these families needs in a timely way by jointly cross-training child welfare and AOD staff, improving data to track progress in these families, and to promote evaluation. S. 484 holds states accountable for demonstrating the progress they make with these funds.
Fact Sheet Prepared by the Children's Defense Fund (CDF), Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), Legal Action Center (LAC), National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors (NASADAD), and the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA).
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