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Child Welfare Training Toolkit


The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) developed the Child Welfare Training Toolkit to educate child welfare workers about substance use and co-occurring disorders among families involved in the child welfare system. The training is intended to provide foundational knowledge to help child welfare workers:

  1. Understand substance use and co-occurring disorders.
  2. Identify when substance use is a factor in a child welfare case.
  3. Learn strategies for engaging parents and families in services.
  4. Understand potential effects for the parent, children, and caregivers.
  5. Learn the importance of collaboration within a system of care. Through a deeper understanding of these topics, child welfare workers can apply knowledge gained to their casework and improve their own practice.

Module 1 – Understanding the Multiple ...

The goal of Training Module 1 is to provide child welfare professionals with information on a range of co-occurring needs that parents involved in the child welfare system may experience. This module discusses the needs of parents...

Module 2 – Understanding Substance Use...

The goal of Training Module 2 is to educate child welfare workers about substance use, treatment, and recovery. The module informs child welfare workers about substances and their effects, the brain chemistry of addiction, and the...

Module 3 – Understanding Co-Occurring ...

The goal of Training Module 3 is to provide in-depth information and learning opportunities to support child welfare workers in working with diverse families affected by mental health disorders, co-occurring disorders, trauma, and...

Module 4 – Engagement and Intervention...

The goal of Training Module 4 is to provide strategies that child welfare workers can use to engage individuals in the change process when there are concerns regarding a substance use disorder, mental health disorder, or trauma hi...

Module 5 – Case Planning, Family Stren...

The goal of Training Module 5 is to provide child welfare workers with an understanding of the importance of responding to families affected by substance use disorders from a strengths-based perspective while providing ongoing saf...

Module 6 – Understanding the Needs of ...

The goal of Training Module 6 is to provide child welfare workers with an understanding of ways in which children can be affected by their parents’ substance use and/or co-occurring disorders—from prenatal exposure to the postnata...

Module 7 – Collaborating to Serve Pare...

The goal of Training Module 7 is to provide child welfare workers with an understanding of the importance of collaborating with other service providers. The module provides an overview of confidentiality laws and the requirement f...

Special Topic – Methamphetamine

The goal of this special topic training is to provide an overview of the effects of methamphetamine use on families. The training provides information on methamphetamine and signs of use. Participants will be able to assess how me...

Special Topic – Opioids

The goal of this special topic training is to provide an overview of the effects of opioid use on families. This training offers information on the different opioids, their effects, and signs of use. An overview of overdose risk a...

Special Topic – Prenatal

The goal of this special topic training is to understand the unique needs of infants with prenatal substance exposure and their families. The training will cover the effects of prenatal substance use on an infant by providing an o...

The entire Training Toolkit can be delivered in a series, or each module can be delivered individually as a stand-alone training. Each module is approximately 2 hours in length and contains materials that can be adapted to meet the needs of child welfare trainers for in-person workshops or more formal training sessions. This flexibility allows the facilitator to determine the best format and timing for the training, according to the needs of the agency and staff. The special topics, in particular, lend themselves to brown-bag or lunchtime trainings.

Each module includes a Facilitator’s Guide with training goals and learning objectives, a PowerPoint presentation, resources, and references. The PowerPoint presentation contains talking points and key details in the notes section of the slides. These talking points are not intended to serve as a script to read aloud to attendees, but rather as key points to highlight while presenting. Facilitators are encouraged to infuse their own content knowledge, expertise, and real-world experience to bring the training to life. Discussion questions and experiential activities are integrated throughout the training sessions.

Intended Audience

The Training Toolkit contains information considered foundational for child welfare practice. The content is general enough for all child welfare workers, but it should be tailored to the audience’s experience and role in child welfare practice (such as investigations, in-home services, or ongoing case management) to enrich the learning opportunity.

Facilitator Qualifications

Facilitators should be knowledgeable about substance use disorders, mental health, and child welfare systems. They should be familiar with the laws and policies that affect child welfare agency decision-making to ensure that the information is presented in the proper context. If the facilitator does not have specific knowledge in substance use disorders or mental health, he or she should partner with local substance use and mental health treatment agencies for support.


Field-specific terms are used during the course of this training. To understand the purpose and intended meanings of these terms, please review the Glossary. This glossary is also a useful resource for training participants.


A list of resources related to the content is included in each module. To review the resources from all modules, please download the master Resources.


The content of the toolkit is intended to be supplemented to include local context, policy and practice information to enrich the learning experience. NCSACW suggests the use of the following acknowledgment:

This resource was adapted by INSERT NAME from a technical assistance tool developed by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW). NCSACW is a technical assistance resource center jointly funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Children’s Bureau (CB), Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Points of view or opinions expressed in this presentation are those of INSERT NAME and do not represent the official position or policies of SAMHSA or ACYF.

For examples of toolkit adaptation or technical assistance to plan and implement the training modules in your jurisdiction please contact the NCSACW.

Find Help with a Personal Situation

Substance Use and Mental Health Treatment Locator

To find treatment facilities confidentially, 24/7, please call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP).

To locate general treatment services, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA’s) Treatment Locator online or call 1-800-662-4357 (HELP). This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. It is a free, confidential, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a year information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members needing treatment for a mental and/or substance use disorder.

National Child Abuse Hotline

If you suspect a child has been harmed by abuse or neglect, please call 1-800-422-4453.

If you suspect that a child has been harmed or is at risk of being harmed by abuse or neglect, call the National Child Abuse Hotline at Call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453. Serving the United States and Canada, the hotline is staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with professional crisis counselors who—through interpreters—provide assistance in over 170 languages. All calls, texts, and chats are confidential. If you believe a child is in immediate danger of harm, call 911 first.

National Suicide Prevention Line

For free and confidential support for people in distress, 24/7, please call or text 988, chat, or call 1-800-273-8255.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide or experiencing a mental health or substance use crisis, help is available and there are options to receive compassionate care. You can call or text 988 or chat You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Both are confidential and available 24/7 to everyone in the United States and will connect you to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.

Contact Us

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare offers free technical assistance to a variety of systems on making policy and practice changes to improve outcomes for families affected by substance use disorders and involvement with child welfare services. To learn more about technical assistance services or if you have a question please email NCSACW at or call toll-free at 1–866–493–2758.

National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare