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Module 2 – Understanding Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, and Recovery

Description and Objectives

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 continuum of substance use disorders (mild, moderate, and severe), explaining the signs and symptoms and their effects on children and families. This module provides an understanding of the treatment and recovery processes, and specifically how substance use disorders can affect family relationships and the dynamics of the families involved in the child welfare system. The information and learning opportunities are designed to support family-centered child welfare practice with families from diverse cultural groups.

After completing this training, child welfare workers will:

  • Identify the types of substances and their effects, including methods of use.
  • Outline the continuum of substance use disorders as mild, moderate, or severe.
  • Understand the basic brain chemistry of substance use disorders.
  • Recognize the signs and symptoms of substance misuse in the context of child welfare practice.
  • Discuss substance use disorders in a cultural context.
  • Identify treatment modalities and the continuum of care.
  • Understand the recovery process, relapse prevention, and long-term recovery maintenance.

Training Tips

  • Partner with a local expert on substance use disorders to co-facilitate the training.
  • Use the *** bolded discussion questions integrated in the module talking points to enrich the training and further engage participants.
  • Share specific screening tools for substance use disorders used or approved for use by the child welfare agency.
  • Supplement content with information about how child welfare workers can locate treatment for parents in the community.
  • Highlight local child welfare programs with expertise in serving families affected by substance use disorders or who provide family-centered treatment.
  • Contact the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare for more information about using the Collaborative Values Inventory, a self-administered questionnaire that provides jurisdictions with an anonymous way of assessing the extent to which group members share ideas about the values that underlie their collaborative efforts, in your community.


  • Computer and projector
  • Speakers
  • Internet access
  • PowerPoint slides
  • Facilitator's Guide
  • Flip chart paper or white board (for use as a visual aid during discussion)

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