July 7, 2012

Vermont’s Regional Partnership Grant (RPG)

Posted in Grants tagged , , , , , , , at 5:36 pm by Lund

Improving Outcomes for Children and Families Affected by Substance Abuse

In October 2007, the Vermont child welfare agency – the Department of Children and Families (DCF) – and Lund – were awarded a HHS ACF grant to implement a regional partnership aimed at increasing permanency for children of substance abusing parents. Vermont’s RPG seeks to build collaborative capacity between the local child welfare system and substance abuse treatment. Vermont’s RPG addresses systemic and practice challenges that are barriers to optimal family outcomes, including: early intervention, screening and assessment, engagement, and retention of parents in substance abuse treatment; differences in professional perspectives and training; conflicting time frames across the systems to achieve outcomes; and service linkages in both child welfare services and substance abuse treatment systems. In September 2012, Vermont’s five-year Regional Partnership Grant will terminate. Lund and DCF are joining forces with ADAP (Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs of the Vermont Department of Health), CIS (Children’s Integrated Services of DCF) and Kidsafe Collaborative to apply for another five years of funding to sustain and grow RPG efforts.

Photo by Noelle Bonneau

The RPG Challenge

  • For many children who are reported to the child welfare system, parental substance abuse is a factor. One-third to two-thirds of substantiated child maltreatment reports involve substance abuse.
  • Child welfare workers face daily challenges working with families with multiple problems, often the results are child maltreatment. Alcohol and drug addiction is a chronic, relapsing disorder and recovery can take time. Children whose parents abuse substances are at greater risk of being place in out-of-home care; these children have increased risk of delayed permanency if the unique needs of their family are not addressed at the earliest possible point of intervention.
  • Child welfare workers can have difficulty determining the level of functional improvement needed to enable a parent with substance abuse and child maltreatment issues to retain or resume parental roles. Substance abuse treatment providers are often effective in helping clients achieve abstinence; yet historically have seldom focused on the child and family functioning.
  • The challenge for child welfare agencies and substance abuse treatment providers is to develop a comprehensive family assessment process to understand problematic behaviors leading to child maltreatment, and design and deliver interventions that increase parenting capacities and improve child well-being.

Our Children and Families

The target population for Vermont’s RPG is substance abusing women, their children and families in Chittenden County, Vermont. The Vermont Department of Health, Division of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Programs (ADAP) had reported the percentage of women in substance abuse treatment in Vermont have increased by 46% between 2000 and 2006. The large majority of these women are between the age of 15-44, of child bearing and minor child rearing age. The 18-24 age range is the most populous group of substance abusing women, with an increase of almost 60% between 2000 and 2006. At the start of the RPG grant, alcohol and opiates were the most often abused drugs in Vermont. The majority of targeted women were unemployed and many families did not have access to safe, drug free housing.

The Chittenden County District Office of the Department for Children and Families – the state’s child welfare agency – has historically accounted for over a quarter of child welfare cases in Vermont. This child welfare office can have 1,000 new investigations of child maltreatment annually, with an average of 125 investigations and 570 ongoing cases open at one time. Of these almost 700 families, DCF estimates 75% of parents or caregivers have a substance abuse problem.


Our Collaborative Approach

Vermont’s RPG project strengthened the collaborative relationship between DCF and Lund, and developed collaborations with community-based stakeholders. Our collaborative service delivery model includes: 1) the co-location of substance abuse staff at the Burlington District office who team with the investigation and assessment unit staff on the front end of the DCF case; 2)assessment beds within the Lund residential  program to provide comprehensive family assessment, and 3) supervised visitation at the Lund Play Lab. Core to the practice for each of the components is the collaborative relationship between the child welfare and substance abuse treatment systems. The proposal, program design, implementation and evaluation process have been collaborative from the onset.  Vermont’s RPG has provided opportunities that have transformed social work practice in both systems in ways that significantly improve outcomes for families.

All of Lund’s treatment programs, whether residential or outpatient, are built around and focused on the specific needs of women and their children.  Lund offers a comprehensive approach that includes clinical and psychiatric services, health care, education and case management to pregnant and parenting young women, their children, and other key family members. As one of fifteen legislatively designated centers of the Vermont Parent/Child Center Network, Lund provides support and education to families, helping to ensure the children of our community get off to a strong start developmentally and emotionally, and have a fair chance for growing into capable and confident young adults.

RPG Outcomes

  • Increased numbers of substance abusers identified early and families engaged in treatment. Teaming DCF social workers with co-located case managers at initial contact with families has had overwhelmingly positive result in terms of family engagement, early screening, assessment and referral.
  • Increased number of families receiving community-based services. Joint DCF and Lund case management ensures parents and families receive and are connected to services identified in their case plans before the end of treatment.
  • Fewer children in foster care in the Burlington district. The presiding family court Judge in Burlington, along with other community providers, recognize the improved timeliness of DCF processes and the impacts of RPG collaborative service delivery model.
  • Improved communication channels have led to systemic change. Two-way information sharing between DCF workers and co-located staff as well as formal and informal staff cross-training opportunities across fields is a regular occurrence in Vermont’s RPG.

Future Directions

Vermont’s RPG project team is preparing a grant application for second round RPG funding. Our aim is to further integrate the above-described service delivery model into relevant public and private service systems. Vermont’s RPG team is planning to:

1) Expand the array of services offered through the grant for a greater focus on children’s services;

2) Expand the range of public and private community partners in grant execution;

3) Expand the geographic scope of the grant;

4) Ensure data systems are integrated and fully developed; and

5) Ensure the service delivery model is sustainable in Vermont.

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