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Availability of Treatment for Opioid Use Disorder in Areas of High Foster Care Increases

Publication Date

Parental opioid use disorder (OUD) is a risk factor for the maltreatment of children and placement into foster care. Opioid agonist therapy (OAT) is an evidence-based treatment for OUD using medications such as methadone and buprenorphine. OAT can help parents enter recovery and reduce the risk of maltreatment, and potentially improve child welfare outcomes. Child welfare agencies are increasingly looking to connect parents with treatment. However, there are concerns of inadequate supply of OAT providers. This brief explores the availability of OAT in counties experiencing different increases in foster care entry rates. Highlights are:

  • Counties with the highest increases in foster care entries from 2013 to 2018 had the least access to OAT.
  • In particular, they were less likely to have an opioid treatment program that can dispense methadone, and had lower average buprenorphine patient limits than other counties.
  • Decisions about increasing access to OAT should take into consideration the risk of child maltreatment and foster care placement resulting from parental OUD. Foster care caseload dynamics could be considered as indicators of need for treatment capacity.

More resources on the link between child welfare and substance use can be found on our Child Welfare and Substance Use landing page.