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Reunification Services for African American Homeless Mothers with Histories of Substance Abuse

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Project Summary:

The disproportionate representation of African American children in the child welfare system, the role race plays in parental reunification, and the dramatic increase in the number of children entering the child welfare system from substance-abusing and homeless families have become areas of interest among child welfare professionals, researchers, and policy-makers. These challenges have compelled the child welfare system to design and implement policies and practices that provide culturally competent and effective services addressing the needs of specific groups in order to promote more successful outcomes. This study will add to the Substance Abuse Policy Research Program grant, “Substance Abuse, Child Neglect, and Homeless Families,” by examining ethnic differences in service utilization patterns among homeless African American mothers with and without substance abuse problems, and by whether or not they have child custody. In addition, in efforts to promote family reunification and preservation, this project will expand the breadth of the related grant by identifying an “integrated services profile” (ISP) of optimal services and strategies specific to homeless African American mothers with substance abuse histories. We will compile the results by obtaining (1) interviews from three types of service providers: homeless programs, child welfare agencies and substance abuse treatment programs; and (2) reactions to those recommendations by three focus groups of African American homeless mothers who have histories of substance abuse problems and who may or may not have custody of their children. The study will use quantitative and qualitative approaches to expand on previous quantitative studies and provide a more comprehensive examination by incorporating direct input from the service community and consumers of services. Thus, this study will tap the existing clinical expertise of service providers in a large, diversely populated county in California and the critical appraisal of consumers with the goal of identifying the most effective services for promoting family preservation and reunification, using a participatory, community-based research approach. The ISP of effective reunification services for African American homeless mothers with substance abuse histories will be utilized for training of service providers and to inform consumers and policy-makers, as well as by service providers and administrators who plan interventions designed to promote improved collaboration among homeless programs, child welfare, and substance abuse treatment, providing intensive time-limited reunification services to children and families.

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