How Many Families in Child Welfare Services Are Affected by Parental Substance Use Disorders? A Common Question that Remains Unanswerededit
Associated with extensive negative outcomes for children, parental substance use disorders are a major concern within the child welfare system. Obtaining actual prevalence rate data has been difficult, however, and there are no recent published reports on this issue. Using a systematic search, this paper examines: (1) Prevalence estimates of parental substance use disorders in the child welfare population; (2) the types of child welfare involvement for reported prevalence estimates; and (3) how prevalence information is being collected. Prevalence rates were found to have a wide range, from 3.9% to 79%, with regional prevalence estimates being higher than national estimates. Prevalence rates of parental substance use disorders varied by type of child welfare involvement of the family and method of data collection. This study points out the need for improvements in prevalence estimates in the United States and national data collection procedures to ensure that child welfare and substance abuse treatment systems are adequately responding to children and families with substance use disorders.