20 Child L. Prac. 1 (2001-2002)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt20 and id is 1 raw text is: Special Focus: Substa nce  Abuse

1i1d     Practice

Vol. 20 No. I

March 2001

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Relapse and Recovery: Making Home Safe for Children
by Sharcii G. Elstehi

T here is no 100%-guaranteed cure for substance abuse.
Enrolling in a treatment program does not ensure an ad-
dicted parent will complete the program and never use drugs or
alcohol again. Research shows most substance abusers, espe-
cially drug-dependent females, cycle in and out of sobriety.

Recovery is a life-long process.
The child welfare system offers little
support for relapse prevention post-
treatment. If the goal is reunification,
child welfare workers must recom-
mend if, and under what circum-
stances, a child may return home,
knowing the parent may be without
help. Parents addressing drug or
alcohol addiction need long-temi help,
whether their child remains with them
during treatment or is moved into
foster care with the goal of reunifica-
As a child welfare professional,
how do you make permanency plan-
ning decisions and prepare for reunifi-
cation in the context of life-long re-
covery from addiction? What factors
help determine when it is safe for a
child to be home? What supports in-
crease the odds of a home remaining
safe and prevent the child from reen-
tering the child welfare system?
Treating Addiction
Getting a parent into treatment is

difficult. Getting the parent to com-
plete treatment is much harder. In one
study, caseworkers in Illinois and
California (representing one-quarter of
America's children in foster care) were
surveyed about their cases. They
* nearly 40% of substance-abusing
parents in each state did not enter
* 40% in each state had entered
treatment but relapsed;
* only 20% in each state had success-
fully completed or were in treatment
at the time of the study.2
Research shows caseworkers may
not know about local treatment pro-
grams, and there may be no area rro-
grams that accept parents with the ir
children.' Parents working with the
child welfare system may resist go-
ing into treatment, due to their anger at
the system that took their children
away.4 Further, treatment for addiction
does not necessarily address or resolve
parenting issues, mental health prob-

This article is the fourth in a series focusing on substance abuse in the child welfare
systen. Funding for this series was provided in part by tie David and Lucile Packard

lems, abusive relationships, or em-
ployment, transportation or housing is-
sues, which likely impact on progress
in recovery.'
Relapse is Part of Recovery
Relapse is virtually a given. Most
treatment providers expect addicts to
slip in and out of treatment and
abstinence; in fact, treatment program
drop-out rates are routinely 50%.1 In
one study of five outpatient treatment
programs, relapse occurred in 37-78%
of the clients.' Most treatment pro-
grams accept that addicts nee' one to
two years of treatment to sustain
abstinence.' Even then, reabuse of
drugs or alcohol is likely.
Progress in substance abuse treat-
ment and through recovery is accom-
plished in stages, each with its own
(Continiued nemt page)
What's Inside:
When Your Client Has a
Criminal Record and Wants
to Foster or Adopt: Tips
for Attorneys
A Win for Sibling Visitation
Appellate Delays

E-mail: childlawpractice@staff.abanet.org *

Internet: http://www.abanet.org/child

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