The congressional request for a report on substance abuse and child protection has provided a unique opportunity for HHS to focus on the maltreatment of children where substance abuse is a contributing factor. This report documents what we know about substance abuse treatment and recovery and its relationship to maltreatment. It further documents both systemic and individual factors that contribute to or minimize our ability to protect children and assist families in the recovery process.
Families often come with serious problems to service systems which are fragmented, and as such are limited in their ability to facilitate safety, permanency and sobriety. The Adoption and Safe Families Act recognizes the importance of time to children and establishes an expectation of urgency in decision making regarding their welfare. The imperative for timely decisions for children and the time frames necessary for recovery should also create a sense of urgency for policy makers and providers of service. Those of us who work in the areas of substance abuse and child welfare services must recognize the immediate need to eliminate barriers to effective treatment. This report sets the stage for a number of actions which can improve the nation's capacity to serve families whose children are at the greatest risk.
By embarking on efforts to collaborate toward better outcomes for families and children and to increase service providers' understanding, identification, and responsiveness to the dual problems of maltreatment and substance abuse, we will not only enable families to address their own issues, but will improve our systemic ability to prevent and treat addictions that compromise children's care.
The challenge before us is substantial. However, we believe that there is a broad recognition of the issues we face and a willingness to make the changes necessary at all levels of government to reach our goal.