FAU and Georgia State collaborate to help children, families affected by addiction

About 8.7 million children live with a parent who has a substance use disorder. Addiction can have recurring and negative long-term effects on the child, the parent and the family. Historically, child welfare, the courts, and treatment providers use different approaches to engage parents in treatment, which presents challenges for those who work in the system and often results in confusing or conflicting information for parents.

Florida Atlantic University and Georgia State University have partnered on a program to assist children and families affected by addiction. They have received a $2.64 million grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services for a program aimed at improving outcomes of Georgia's children and families and strengthening the partnership between the Division of Family and Children Services and family treatment courts. Other public and community partners on this grant include Georgia's Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Advanced Outcomes Consulting Group.

This regional partnership grant will establish projects designed to increase well-being, improve permanency, and enhance the safety of children who are in, or at risk of an out-of-home placement as a result of a parent's or caregiver's opioid or other substance misuse. Primary objectives of the five-year grant are to increase screening, identification, referral and enrollment in family treatment courts for families involved with child welfare; and to implement select evidence-based practices to improve parenting outcomes and mental health and well-being outcomes for both parents and children.

There is a real need for strong collaboration across child welfare, substance use treatment and the courts. An important challenge facing both the child welfare and the substance use disorder treatment fields is the need to take a comprehensive view of families' situations and to understand the contributions of various problematic behaviors that lead to child maltreatment and to address these issues using a family-centered approach."

Wendy Guastaferro, Ph.D., co-principal investigator, associate professor and associate dean for research in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice within FAU's College for Design and Social Inquiry

Wendy Guastaferro works with co-principal investigator Dan Whitaker, Ph.D., a professor and associate dean for faculty and research affairs in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University.

This grant is the second jointly funded project for Guastaferro and Whitaker; their first project, a five-year $4.9 million grant, was focused on studying parents in adult drug courts. This latest project will bring parents, counselors, family treatment court teams, child welfare staff, and other stakeholders together to develop and implement a protocol to improve collaboration across these partners. The researchers will use training and coaching along with technological improvements to increase referrals from child welfare to family treatment courts for parents in need. The second aim of the grant is to enhance effective treatments in the family treatment courts to improve outcomes for families by implementing and evaluating court-selected evidence-based programs.

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