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Expanding Evidence on Recovery and Reunification Interventions for Families


  • Better evidence is needed on the role of recovery coaches in improving outcomes for families involved in the child welfare system.
  • Abt Global identified two promising interventions that use recovery coaches and assessed the feasibility of replicating and evaluating them.
  • A summary of evidence was released in 2021. The results of a feasibility study and design options and recommendations were delivered in 2022.
The Challenge

The child welfare system has seen recent increases in removals of children from homes where parental substance use disorder (SUD) is a contributing factor, due in part to the depth of the opioid crisis. Some parents with SUD have limited access to treatment and recovery support services, which makes keeping families safe and together more challenging. To build evidence on interventions that could help, the 2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act called for the replication and evaluation of an intervention that uses recovery coaches for families engaged in the child welfare system due to parental SUD. In response, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families launched this project to lay the groundwork for an evaluation of whether recovery coaches can improve SUD recovery and child welfare outcomes for families.

The Approach

To determine the feasibility of a rigorous evaluation of the interventions, Abt—along with Dr. Joseph Ryan at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Faces & Voices of Recovery:

  • Identified and assessed the readiness of interventions for an evaluation that could meet the design and execution standards of the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse.
  • Conducted outreach and engagement activities to identify jurisdictions implementing the selected intervention(s) or that may have the capacity to implement the intervention(s).
  • Worked closely with those jurisdictions to determine whether participation in an evaluation is feasible and laid the groundwork for future participation.

Throughout the project, Abt engaged relevant stakeholders and experts to ensure the project reflected current research and practice knowledge.

The Results

The project concluded in September 2022. Abt:

  • Compiled and disseminated to the field current evidence on interventions that use recovery coaches in child welfare settings.
  • Determined the feasibility of conducting a rigorous evaluation of two potentially replicable and scalable interventions.

Related Publications:

Relevant Projects: