The Annie E. Casey Foundation: Helping vulnerable kids & families succeed

Family to Family

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Public child welfare agencies are faced with a growing problem of infants exposed to drugs before they are born. Some agencies place the baby in foster care, then try later to reunite the baby and mother. Others terminate parental rights, requiring adequate adoptive homes. Public child welfare agencies need an intensive treatment option that can give mothers who are able to change the opportunity to reunite with their babies and raise them safely without substance abuse. The START tool is a response to this need.

What is "START"?

This tool is a description of the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Team (START) pilot project at Cuyahoga County Department of Child and Family Services in Ohio, a public child welfare agency. The START program teams social workers with ex-clients of child welfare, many of whom formerly used drugs like crack cocaine. This team works closely with local substance abuse treatment providers to provide a more intensive response to women with babies who tested positive for drugs at birth.

How was this tool applied in Family to Family?

The START program was developed as a demonstration project with funds from the Annie E. Casey Foundation and other sources. Initial outcome data are promising, and the program is being expanded.

What did we learn from these applications?

It is possible for drug treatment providers and child welfare workers to work closely together in the design and implementation of an integrated approach. Paraprofessionals can be valuable partners with public agency social workers in engaging and supporting very troubled families.

What you need to get started:

Begin by ordering the START tool and then initiate discussions about this approach at your agency. Invite local substance abuse providers and other community organizations and members to further discuss a local response. Consider your need for consultants in devel-oping and implementing a program and for an evaluation component.

How to find out more:
resources, examples, references:

Order the START tool from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, 410.547.6600. Consultants available to answer questions or lead initial discussions include Marsha Wickliffe, 216.431.4103 and Jill Kinney, 253.927.7547.