Enhancing Permanency in Children and Families (EPIC): a child welfare intervention for parental substance abuse

Bridget Freisthler, Kathryn Maguire-Jack, Susan Yoon, Elinam Dellor, Jennifer Price Wolf

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: Across Ohio, parental substance abuse has contributed to a marked increase in the number of children in foster care. Children exposed to parental substance use have a higher likelihood of physical abuse and neglect, and consequently a variety of physical, psychological and cognitive problems. The Enhancing Permanency in Children and Families (EPIC) program is a collaborative effort between the Ohio State University College of Social Work, two county offices of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, two juvenile courts and local behavioral health agencies. The goal of EPIC is to use three evidence-based and evidence-informed practices to reduce abusive and neglectful parenting, reduce addiction severity in parents, and improve permanency outcomes for families involved with the child welfare system due to substance abuse. Methods: EPIC is a quasi-experimental study. Under the program, child welfare-involved adults who screen positive for substances are matched with a peer recovery supporter. Participants are also incentivized to participate in family treatment drug court, medications for opioid use disorders and home-based parenting supports. Participating adults (N = 250) are matched with comparison groups from counties participating in a separate intervention (Ohio START) and to those receiving treatment as usual, resulting in a final sample of 750 adults. Primary outcomes including addiction severity, child trauma symptoms, resilience, and attachment are assessed at baseline and at program completion. Additional outcomes include timely access to treatment services, length of placement in out-of-home care and recidivism into the child welfare system. Discussion: This intervention formalizes cross-system collaboration between child welfare, behavioral health and juvenile courts to support families affected by addiction. The use of three evidence-based or evidence-informed strategies presents the opportunity to determine specific strategies that are most effective for reducing addiction severity. Lastly, the intervention combines several sources of funding to bolster sustainability beyond the life of the Regional Partnership Grant (RPG). Trial registration: NCT04700696. Registered January 7, 2021-retrospectively registered.

Original languageEnglish
Article number780
JournalBMC Public Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

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  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare
  • Child well-being
  • Substance abuse
  • Substance use disorders


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