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ACF, Abt Team to Study the Effectiveness of Peer Recovery Support for Families Involved in Child Welfare Due to Substance Use

Rockville, Md.  –  In the last 20 years, parental substance use has become an increasingly prevalent reason for children to enter the foster care system. Policymakers and practitioners want to find the right combination of supports and services to help keep families safe and together, and reduce the time spent in foster care when placement is necessary. Peer recovery support services tailored for parents involved in child welfare could help achieve these goals.

The use of peer recovery coaches places a high value on lived experience as a parent in the child welfare system and with sustained recovery. Coaches provide one-on-one mentoring to help parents engage with treatment, recovery support services, and their child welfare case. Does recovery coaching improve parents’ well-being? Does it help keep families together? There is limited evidence of the effectiveness of these services in the context of child welfare. The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) has partnered with Abt Global to learn answers to these questions and more through the new Replication of Recovery and Reunification Interventions for Families Impact Study (R3-Impact).

R3-Impact will provide high-quality evidence on the effectiveness of two programs: Parent Mentor Program (PMP) and Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START). Through a multi-site, mixed-method evaluation, the Abt team will measure the programs’ impacts on the well-being of parents and child welfare outcomes over five years, and identify what it takes to implement them in multiple settings with diverse populations.

For the past three years, Abt has assessed the feasibility of evaluating programs in child welfare that use recovery coaches, laying the groundwork for R3-Impact. As part of this study, Abt will partner with experts with lived experience to make study design and implementation decisions that are responsive and relevant to parents, families, and communities. The team will collaborate closely with state and local child welfare jurisdictions to build capacity to implement these programs.

“This study comes at a time when more and more communities are providing support to parents from peers with lived experience, and child welfare systems are increasing their emphasis on preventing system involvement,” said Kim Francis, Project Director. “This is an important opportunity to generate much-needed evidence about strategies to support parents in their recovery and reduce placement in out-of-home care.”

The Abt team includes partners Dr. Joseph Ryan (University of Michigan), Dr. Carrie Furrer (Portland State University), Child Trends, Morrison Child and Family Services, Children and Family Futures, Faces and Voices of Recovery, and The Adjacent Possible.

About Abt Global
Abt Global is a global consulting and research firm that combines data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people's lives. We partner with clients and communities to advance equity and innovation—from creating scalable digital solutions and combatting infectious disease, to mitigating climate change and evaluating programs for measurable social impact.

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