A study in California examining the predictors of child reunification among 1,115 mothers who participated in statewide treatment has recently been published. Some of the key findings include:

  • Mothers who were treated in programs providing a “high” level of family-related or education/employment services were approximately twice as likely to reunify with their children as those who were treated in programs with “low” levels of these services.
  • Mothers who completed 90 or more days in treatment approximately doubled their chance of reunification.
  • Mothers who were self-referred to treatment or referred by another individual (e.g., family or friend) were half as likely to be reunified with their children compared with mothers who were referred by another treatment provider.
  • Type of child placement also affected outcomes. Newborns and very young children (less than 3 years) were less likely to be reunified, as were those who were in kin placements. Further, the more extensive the child’s involvement in the child welfare system, as seen in longer time spent in the current placement episode, more moves within the episode, and more prior placements, the less likely the child was to be reunified with his or her mother.

These findings reinforce the importance of sufficient time in treatment, the need for comprehensive and “wraparound” services, and the role of service providers in referral, monitoring and supervision.

Reference: Grella, C.E., Needell, B., Shi, Y., & Hser, Y.I. (2009). Do drug treatment services predict reunification outcomes of mothers and their children in child welfare? Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment, 36(3), 278-293.