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Home > Practice Areas > Alcohol and Other Drugs > About this Area of Focus


Alcohol and Other Drugs

Substance abuse is one of the most significant problems facing the child welfare system today. Children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs (AOD) are almost three times likelier to be abused and more than four times likelier to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers. 1   Evidence from various national studies suggest that between 40% and 80% of all child abuse and neglect cases involve parental misuse of AOD. 2   Eighty percent of states report that parental substance abuse and poverty are the top two problems among child protective caseloads. 3   In 1997 CWLA conducted a national survey of its state public child welfare agencies on AOD issues. Results from this survey show the enormous impact of AOD issues on the child welfare system and indicates how the system is responding to this epidemic.
Survey highlights include:
  • Parental AOD Abuse and Children in Out-of-Home-Care
    Parental chemical dependency was a contributing factor in the out-of-home placement of at least 53% of the 482,000 children and youth in the custody of the child welfare system.

  • Treatment Capacity
    Approximately 67% of parents with children in the child welfare system required substance abuse treatment services, but child welfare agencies were able to provide treatment for 31% of them.

  • Worker Training
    On average 51% of child welfare workers receive training on recognizing and dealing with substance abuse issues during their first year of service.

  • Efficiency of Services
    11% of the child welfare/AOD experts surveyed believed that children and parents with AOD problems can be treated in a timely manner (less than one month).

  1. Kelleher, K., Chaffin, M., Hollenberg, J., & Fischer, E. (1994). Alcohol and drug disorders among physically abusive and neglectful parents in a community-based sample. American Journal of Public Health, 84(10), 1586-1590.

  2. Young, N.K., Gardner, S.L., & Dennis, K. (1998). Responding to alcohol and other drug problems in child welfare: Weaving together practice and policy. Washington, DC: CWLA Press.

  3. National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse. (1998). Current trends in child abuse reporting and fatalities: NCPCA's 1997 annual fifty state survey. Chicago: Author.

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