Online Tutorials

Tutorial 3: Understanding Substance Use Disorders, Treatment, and Family Recovery: A Guide for Legal Professionals

The American Bar Association has applied for accreditation for this training for Continuing Legal Education (CLE). Up to 6.0 CLE credits are approved based upon your state's credit structure and whether or not your state allows online or self study curricula. View information on the number of credits approved in your state.

The foremost concern of a dependency court judge is the safety and welfare of the child, the rapidly moving developmental timetable of the young child, and the need to make a legal determination as quickly as possible as to whether a child can return to his/her family or whether parental rights need to be terminated so the child can be placed for adoption. If a parent is in substance abuse treatment, it is important that the judge know if that treatment is working, and whether the periods of sobriety and stability are sufficient to allow the child to return to the parent. To make informed decisions about custody in these situations, it is important that the judge understand substance abuse treatment and recovery.

In addition, various attorney groups play a critical role in this process, and we understand that they often need core information about both substance abuse issues and the child welfare system. Attorneys for the child need to understand substance abuse and addiction as well as treatment and recovery in the context of child development. Parents’ attorneys have a primary role as advocate for their client, which includes protecting the legal rights of the parent. They play a crucial role in understanding the client’s wishes regarding parenting, encouraging the client’s engagement in substance abuse and other services, and advocating for reasonable efforts to provide these services to their clients.

Attorneys must be familiar with services that address the most common problems faced by families with substance use disorders and should advocate for their clients to receive these services. Attorneys who represent the child welfare agency, social workers, or the State are the decisionmakers about filing charges as well as referrals to criminal courts for further action regarding criminal child abuse and neglect. These attorneys need an in-depth understanding of substance abuse/addiction and its role in parenting and future risks to children.

This tutorial will provide a primer on alcohol and drug addiction, substance abuse treatment and recovery, the impact on children and families, child welfare timetables and their impact on parenting, cross-system communication and collaboration, as well as provide contact information for other national resources.

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