On Monday, August 1 the Child Welfare League of America opened its annual 2016 conference, What Works for Families Affected by Substance Use, in Orange county, California. Orange county, as the sixth largest county in the country with over 800,000 children, was an appropriate setting for the event that focused on best practices and strategies to address a major element that has been a long time contributing factor in child maltreatment and foster care placement numbers.

For three days the annual conference addressed the challenges and strategies on the emerging spread of opioid abuse as reflected by the dramatic increases in the prescription drug pain medication to heroin use in a majority of the country.  Like previous drug use epidemics such as heroin in the 1960s and 1970’s, crack-cocaine in the 1980’s and 1990s to methamphetamines in the last decade the substance use challenge has had an impact on foster care numbers.  This time however, there appears a greater willingness to address the problem through best strategies that emphasize treatment including family-based treatment over incarceration strategies.

Over the course of three days, participants attended sessions on the effectiveness of drug courts, collaborations between child welfare, behavioral health, substance use and other human services, infant care including safe care plans, trauma-informed care strategies, better use of data and the use of evidence-based practices.