The Huffington Post recently interviewed Rafael López, President Obama’s appointed Commissioner of the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. López sees the child welfare system as “deeply broken” with the chief problem being that state intervention does not occur until a family is already greatly impacted by drugs or alcohol and/or domestic violence. According to Lopez, substance abuse is a contributor to roughly 30% of foster care placements and half of families involved in the system experience domestic violence. He says attacking these two main systemic issues is the key to improving the system. In other words the focus needs to be on when, as much as how, a state intervenes with families. Part of the answer is to facilitate and encourage partnerships between courts, treatment services, education, mental health services and other support systems to decrease substance abuse overall. To that end the current administration proposed to triple nationwide funding for the Children’s Bureau’s Regional Partnership Grant (RPG) program, the projects of which focus on cross-system collaboration to reduce substance abuse and improve outcomes for families involved in the child welfare system. While child welfare systems vary greatly by state, it seems clear that addressing substance abuse and domestic violence in innovative, cross-system approaches is key to improving outcomes everywhere.
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