November 04, 2013
Teens in child welfare system show higher drug abuse rate
LSW Continuing Education That, according to Fettes, may reflect a couple of facts. "Alcohol is readily available to teenagers," she said, "and drinking is something of a normative behavior to them." But whereas drug use was more common among teens in the welfare system, not all of those kids were at equal risk. A key risk factor—for all teens in the study—was delinquency. Teenagers who admitted to things like shoplifting, theft, running away or using a weapon were at increased risk of both drug and alcohol abuse. On the other hand, some family factors seemed to protect kids from falling into drug use. Teens from two-parent homes were generally less likely to report drug use—and so were kids who said they felt close to their parents or other guardian. For the parents and others who care for these kids, Fettes said it's important to be aware of the increased risk of substance abuse. On the wider scale, Fettes said that right now, there are typically multiple, distinct service systems working with teens in the child welfare system. They may also be receiving mental health services and alcohol and other drug counseling, as well as having contact with the criminal justice system. "Often, they don't work together," she noted. "Given the increased risk, the child welfare system may be an ideal venue to incorporate proven prevention and intervention programs for youth substance use," Fettes concluded. "Drug abuse screening and treatment, or referrals for treatment, should be a regular part of kids' case management." ### Fettes, D. L., Aarons, G. A., & Green, A. E. (November 2013). Higher rates of adolescent substance use in child welfare versus community populations in the United States. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 74(6), 825. To arrange an interview with Danielle L. Fettes, Ph.D., please contact Debra Kain at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-543-6202. The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs is published by the Center of Alcohol Studies at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey. It is the oldest substance-abuse journal published in the United States. To learn about education and training opportunities for addiction counselors and others at the Rutgers Center of Alcohol Studies, please visit AlcoholStudiesEd.rutgers.edu.