Daily Practice: Client Screening, Assessment, Engagement & Retention

Daily practice and protocols in the areas of substance abuse screening and assessment should be addressed by the collaborative, since it is in these first contacts with the client that agencies must begin the process of determining what kind of substance abuse problem–if any–these parents have, and what mode of treatment can best respond to the problem, and what information needs to be communicated among workers and attorneys. Legal advocates for parents play a pivotal role in the process by either encouraging or discouraging their client from seeking services and being forthright during the evaluation.

Daily practice in engaging and retaining parents should be addressed by the collaborative as the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) and children’s developmental needs demand the best possible efforts to keep clients on track in meeting their parental goals while balancing the many obstacles often confronting chemically dependent parents and their children. There are discrete roles and responsibilities that can be exercised by judicial officers to enhance retention in care among parents. Again, parents’ attorneys play a crucial role in the messages they give to their clients about engaging in substance abuse and other services. Agency attorneys are also positioned to inform the court and community about available resources and gaps in services.

Policy and Practice Guides

Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery (SAFERR) guidebook

A guidebook that presents the SAFERR (Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery) model for helping staff of public and private agencies respond to families affected by substance use disorders and is based on the premise that when parents misuse substances and maltreat their children, the only way to make sound decisions is to draw from the talents and resources of at least three systems: child welfare, alcohol and drugs, and the courts.

This publication may be downloaded or ordered at the SAMHSA publication store. Or call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). In addition, this publication can be ordered from the Child Welfare Information Gateway at 1-800-394-3366.


Drug Testing in Child Welfare: Practice and Policy Considerations (PDF 904 KB)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2010 (SMA) 10-4556

This document guides child welfare agency policymakers in developing practice and policy protocols regarding the use of drug testing in child welfare practice. This guidance describes the practice and policy issues that policymakers must address to include drug testing in the comprehensive assessment and monitoring that child welfare agencies provide.

This publication may be downloaded or ordered at the SAMHSA publication store. Or call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). In addition, this publication can be ordered from the Child Welfare Information Gateway at 1-800-394-3366.

To learn more about Drug Testing in Child Welfare


Substance Abuse Specialists in Child Welfare Agencies and Dependency Courts Considerations for Program Designers and Evaluators (PDF 1.51 MB)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. 2010 (SMA) 10-4557

This document focuses on one particular model of collaboration, the placing of substance abuse specialists in either child welfare offices or dependency courts. The purpose of co-locating substance abuse specialists is to ensure that parents are assessed as quickly as possible, to improve parent engagement and retention in treatment, to streamline entry into treatment, and to provide consultation to child welfare and dependency court workers.

This publication may be downloaded or ordered at the SAMHSA publication store. Or call SAMHSA’s Health Information Network at 1-877-SAMHSA-7 (1-877-726-4727). In addition, this publication can be ordered from the Child Welfare Information Gateway at 1-800-394-3366.

To learn more about Substance Abuse Specialists in Child Welfare Agencies and Dependency Courts

Policy and Practice Tool – State Examples

Family Engagement and Resources

Family Engagement Models and Resources – State Examples

Additional Resources

    • Integrating Substance Abuse Treatment and Vocational Services (PDF 2.36 MB)
      For substance abuse treatment providers, vocational rehabilitation staff, and others involved in integrating vocational services with substance abuse treatment plans. It also discusses policy, funding, and the recent regulation that affects employment and substance abuse disorder treatment. TIP 38.
    • Substance Abuse Treatment for Persons with Child Abuse and Neglect Issues
      Helps treatment providers work more effectively with adults who experienced abuse or neglect in childhood, or who are at risk for abusing their own children. Adults with histories of child abuse and neglect are at high risk for developing substance abuse disorders, and substance-abusing parents are more likely to abuse their own children. TIP 36.
    • Brief Interventions and Brief Therapies for Substance Abuse
      Documents the effectiveness of brief interventions and therapies in both the mental health and substance abuse treatment fields. TIP 34.
    • Enhancing Motivation for Change in Substance Use Disorder Treatment
      Illustrates how clinicians can influence the change process and also describes different motivational interventions that can be used at all stages of change. TIP 35.
    • Substance Abuse Treatment and Domestic Violence
      Provides information on domestic violence for substance abuse treatment providers. It describes the role of substance abuse in domestic violence, for men who batter and for women who are battered. It suggests ways to elicit information, modify treatment to ensure victims' safety, and stop the cycle of violence. TIP 25.
    • Pregnant, Substance-Using Women (PDF 691 KB)
      Defines guidelines that reflect state-of-the-art scientific and clinical knowledge on effective treatment practices and care for pregnant women who have substance use disorders. TIP 2.
    • Treatment Approaches for Women
      Gender specific webcast, from the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, examines how treatment services are changing to help women successfully navigate the road to recovery. It also explores other issues that can affect their recovery progress, such as child care, co-occurring disorders, and domestic violence. This program received a 2005 Omni Award.
    • NIDA's Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: Research-Based Guide
      This guide captures three decades of scientific research and clinical practice yielding a variety of effective approaches to drug addiction treatment. 

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