Children's Voice Jan/Feb 2007

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Recovery Coaches

Since 2000, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) has operated a successful federal waiver demonstration project to provide enhanced alcohol and other drug abuse services to child welfare-involved families. The demonstration allows DCFS to waive current restrictions to use federal foster care funds more flexibly to address the needs of this population.

The waiver builds on an existing partnership with the state's Department of Alcohol and Substance Abuse that has resulted in expedited assessment and priority treatment admission for child welfare families. The courts also played a key role in this collaboration through the Juvenile Court Assessment Project, which provides onsite substance abuse assessment services at the juvenile court.

A cornerstone of the project are "recovery coaches," who help parents obtain treatment services and negotiate departmental and judicial requirements associated with recovery and permanency planning. Coaches work in collaboration with the child welfare worker, treatment providers, and extended family members to bridge service gaps. Specialized outreach and intensive case management are provided at all stages of the treatment, reunification, and recovery processes.

Based on a comprehensive evaluation, the first five years of the demonstration project have shown that children whose parents participate in this model are more likely to return home--and return home more quickly--than are children whose parents did not have access to these services. In addition, families in the program were less likely to have subsequent child abuse and neglect reports or to have additional children born exposed to drugs.


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