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Expanding Evidence on Recovery and Reunification Interventions for Families (R3)


  • More evidence is needed on interventions designed to increase reunification for families affected by substance use disorder.
  • Abt is identifying and systematically assessing interventions using recovery coaches for their readiness for evaluation.
  • A summary of evidence is expected in 2020. The results of a feasibility study are expected in 2022.
The Challenge

The child welfare system has seen recent increases in removals of children from homes where parental substance use disorder (SUD) is a contributing factor, due in part to the depth of the opioid crisis. Some parents with SUD have limited access to treatment and recovery support services, which makes reunification more challenging. To build evidence on interventions that could help, the 2018 SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act called for the replication and evaluation of promising family recovery and reunification interventions that use recovery coaches. In response, the Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation (OPRE) and the Children’s Bureau within the Administration for Children and Families launched the R3 project to lay the groundwork for an evaluation of the effectiveness of recovery coaches to improve family reunification and SUD recovery outcomes.

The Approach

To determine the feasibility of a rigorous evaluation of the intervention(s), Abt—along with Dr. Joseph Ryan at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and Faces & Voices of Recovery—is:

  • Identifying and assessing the readiness of interventions for an evaluation that could meet the evidence standards of the Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse.
  • Conducting outreach and engagement activities to identify programs currently implementing the selected intervention(s) or that may have the capacity to implement the intervention(s).
  • Working closely with those programs to determine whether participation in an evaluation is feasible, and laying the groundwork for future participation.

Throughout the project, Abt will engage relevant stakeholders and experts to ensure the project reflects current research and practice knowledge.

The Results

The project is expected to conclude in March 2022. Abt will:

  • Compile and disseminate to the field current evidence on recovery and reunification interventions that use recovery coaches in child welfare settings.
  • Determine the feasibility of conducting a rigorous evaluation of one or more potentially replicable and scalable interventions.