Evidence-Informed Practice in Intervening with Children Affected by Substance Abuse

Journal article by: by Deborah Goodman, Carol Baker-Lai, Carolyn Ussher, Children’s Aid Society of Toronto and Michelle Coutu, Diane Smylie, Jean Tweed Centre

This evidence-informed, multi-sector, community partnership service model called, Children Affected by Substance Abuse (CASA), was developed in 2009-10 for children and families where parental “substance use” is an issue and child welfare involvement resulted. Since terms and language can change over time as learning evolves, the preferred term now used is “substance use” instead of terms that carry stigma (e.g., “substance abuse” or “misuse”). This article details the outcomes related to one of CASA’s goals, “improved service outcomes;” as well as the evaluation methodology used, the rationale for using a community partnership model, the service guidelines that were developed, coupled with a summary of the study findings and the suggested implications for practice.


CASA’s three overall project goals were:

Goal 1) to improve client service outcomes by having a substance use specialist at Intake where emphasis is on child safety and permanency, intervening in a family child-centered way, and greater utilization of family and community to maintain continuity of care for children.
Goal 2) to improve worker knowledge and skills through an evidence-informed, best practice training curriculum for staff, which included developing two different trainings on substance use: a) a provincial, online training and b) a series of agency, classroom workshops. 
Goal 3) to improve service collaboration
 through collaboratively developing a best practice protocol to guide the different sectors on preferred interventions with families with substance use issues. Note the focus of this article is to present the CASA model and the evaluation findings specific to Goal 1.

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