Research, Fact Sheets, Statistics

There are relatively few empirically sound studies or nationally representative data on the number of children in child welfare who are affected by their parents’ substance abuse or dependence. The two systems that could systematically monitor this population, child welfare and substance abuse treatment, are not required to capture the data elements that would identify families in both systems. The studies that are based on child welfare populations or parents in treatment indicate that there is a substantial overlap in client populations. The following resources and publications provide research and summary statistics.

Literature Reviews & Abstracts

Child Welfare, Substance Abuse Disorders and Dependency Courts: A Cross-System Annotated Bibliography
Identifies the major literature in the field of cross-system issues involving child welfare, substance use disorders, and dependency courts. It is organized in 5 major topic areas with sub topic areas, and the time frame is from January 2000 through August 2009.

Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute

Subject bibliographies related to substance abuse and child welfare from the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute (ADAI) at the University of Washington. References in ADAI bibliographies are from the ADAI Library database, which includes citations to items in the library collection. Call numbers provided for books and chapters refer to the ADAI Library only.

Project CORK

Fact Sheets and Statistics

There are families involved in substance abuse treatment and child welfare services that do not come to the attention of the dependency courts. However, for those families in which child protection and custody issues prevail, the dependency courts play a critical role in overseeing compliance with the law, adjudicating the case, and ensuring the safety, permanency and well-being of children. An important part of the context of the problem is the large number of child abuse and neglect reports through which families enter the child welfare service system. The extent of overlap between these families and the other two core systems—substance abuse and the dependency court—is substantial, as indicated by the following national estimates.

Alcohol and Drug Treatment – 2004

    • 1.84 million adults were admitted to the public treatment system
    • 566,648 (30.8% of 1.84 million) were women
    • 1.085 million (59% of 1.84 million) were parents of minor children
    • 294,000 parents (27% of 1.085 million) had one or more children removed by child welfare services
    • 106,000 parents (36% of 294,000) had parental rights terminated

Child Welfare Services – 2004

    • 5.5 million children were reported for abuse/neglect in 2004
    • 3.5 million children received an investigation (62.7% of referrals made to Child Protective Services)
    • 1.24 million children received post-investigation services
    • 872,000 children (47.8% of those receiving an investigation or assessment) were victims of neglect (64.5%); physical abuse (17.5%); sexual abuse (9.7%); emotional or psychological abuse (7%); medical neglect (2.1%); and other (14.5%)
    • 268,000 children entered out-of-home care
    • One-third to two-thirds of families in child welfare services are affected by substance use disorders

Dependency Court – 2002

    • 1.81 million juvenile court cases were filed
    • 1.615 million delinquency cases were filed in juvenile court (Each case represents a new referral to juvenile court for one or more offenses; a youth may be involved in more than one case in a year; the Juvenile Court Statistics series does not provide a count of individual juveniles brought before juvenile courts) 193,200 cases (about 12% of 1.615 million) were for drug-related offenses
    • The total number of dependency cases filed is not known; however, 268,000 children were court-involved due to placement in foster care
    • The number of children who were court-involved but not removed from parents’ custody (often referred to as “in home” cases) and for whom a petition alleging parental abuse or neglect was filed in court is not known


Five National Reports on the Substance Abuse–Child Welfare Linkage

More information on these five national reports