Saturday, 15 January 2005 - 12:00 PM
This presentation is part of: Poster Session II
Alcohol and Drug Use and CPS Involvement Among Welfare ApplicantsBernadette B. Sangalang, PhD, School of Public Health, University of California at Berkeley and Laura A. Schmidt, PhD, Alcohol Research Group, Public Health Institute.
Purpose: Extensive research has highlighted the strong association between welfare participation and involvement in the child welfare system. Among the various correlates that are shared among families involved in both the welfare and child welfare systems, substance abuse is relatively understudied. In the welfare population, substance abuse is associated with repeat welfare spells and difficulty securing stable employment. Within the child welfare population, 60-80% of parents with children involved in the child welfare system have alcohol or drug related problems. Parental substance abuse has been linked to increased risk for child abuse and neglect and repeat reports to Child Protective Services (CPS). This study examines the level of involvement with CPS among persons applying for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and explores the relationship between CPS involvement and alcohol and drug problems among this low-income population.
Methods: This analysis is based on data from a study of alcohol and drug problems and welfare reform. A representative sample of 1,171 welfare applicants was interviewed as they applied for TANF assistance in a large county in Northern California in 2001. Interview questions focused on alcohol and drug use, employment, and health and mental health factors.
Results: Bivariate analyses revealed that 17% of TANF applicants reported having ever been contacted by CPS about their children, and 8% reported having had CPS contact during the past year. An estimated one-third of TANF applicants ever involved with CPS reported that the CPS contacts involved their alcohol or drug use. Problem drinking and weekly drug use were significantly associated with having a CPS contact during the 12 months prior to applying for TANF (p<.001). Logistic regression analyses revealed that after controlling for demographics, family stress, and prior involvement with public-sector systems, the odds of having CPS contact among problem drinkers is about two times larger than non-problem drinkers (p<.05), and for weekly drug users, the odds is estimated at 1.4. Having young children in the home, having three or more children, being unemployed, and prior involvement with the criminal justice system were also significantly associated with a higher likelihood of CPS contact (p<.01).
Implications: Gaining a better understanding of the relationship between substance abuse--especially problem drinking--and risk of CPS involvement among low-income families pose significant implications for social work practice and policy. Substance abuse among welfare parents is a considerable barrier to stable employment, and likewise, limits parenting ability and is associated with an increased risk for CPS involvement. Our findings emphasize the importance of focusing on welfare recipients with substance abuse problems for program planning and coordinating services between welfare, child welfare, and substance abuse treatment systems.
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