Putting Together an Opioid Conference

The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) helped coordinate a conference on opioids on May 3. There is no more vital topic of discussion right now–here are some suggestions for putting together a conference on opioids:

  1. Collaborate with a wide variety of agencies. The opioid issue involves a broad spectrum of agencies.  Our conference collaborative included family treatment court (drug court), a state child welfare agency, a county child welfare agency, treatment providers, and national organizations.
  2. Select a keynote speaker with vast knowledge of opioids at the national, state, and local level. It’s critical for participants to have information that includes extent of use, how opioids work, the high rate of overdose and available overdose reversal measures, and best practice in treatment.
  3. Provide training on interventions. Start first with addressing differences in perception and approach of the workforce such as child welfare social workers compared to drug treatment providers. Parenting capacity is critical in addressing substance use of parents.  Therapeutic interventions (Motivational Interviewing, TF-CBT, etc.) require intensive training so provide introductory overviews.  More basic interventions that can be quickly learned and applied include Trauma Systems Therapy and Mental Health First Aid.
  4. Family treatment/drug courts are highly effective and an essential component of addressing the opioid epidemic. A drug court judge and drug court graduate are valuable and highly valued speakers at an opioid conference.
  5. Don’t overlook the informal support system. Opioid users need a lot of support from family and other informal support systems such as churches, AA, Narcotics Anonymous, etc.  At our conference the mother of a drug court graduate shared how she supported her daughter in overcoming substance use.  The mother received a standing ovation from participants.

Here are some lessons learned from the opioid conference:

  1. Participants loved the variety of presenters and topics.
  2. The one-day conference was too short for the amount of material presented so plan follow-up training.
  3. The PowerPoint presentations and supplemental materials can be put on a flash drive for easy access and additional training.
  4. On the evaluation forms, ask participants 3 things they learned and 1 way they will change practice after the conference = priceless feedback.
  5. The conference received the highest ratings by participants of any that NFPN has been involved in. There’s a big interest in opioids!

Here are additional resources:

NFPN offers a video training on substance use.  Pricing starts at $275.

NFPN has trainers (board members) with expertise in parenting capacity and skills, motivational interviewing, trauma treatment, and depression.

For all questions and more information about resources, training, and putting together an opioid conference, please contact Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director, director@nfpn.org, phone 888-498-9047.


To view “10 Things I learned at the Opioid Conference,” visit the Preserving Families Blog at https://preservingfamiliesblog.wordpress.com/2018/05/22/10-things-i-learned-at-the-opioid-conference/


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director


When children are removed from their families, the most common goal is to reunify the family and about half of the children removed are actually reunified with their families.  What can be done to improve this outcome so that more children can safely return home?

The Child Welfare Information Gateway addressed the issue of reunification in a recent publication.  Gateway reported these factors result in children being less likely to reunify:

  • Being placed in kinship care
  • Spending longer time in care or experiencing more placements
  • Being African-American
  • Having health, mental health, or behavioral problems (child)
  • Coming from a single-parent family
  • Receiving an initial placement in a group home or emergency shelter

Gateway’s best practice for reunifying families include the following:

Comprehensive Family Assessment:  Assessment has been linked to positive outcomes including increased reunification and reductions in maltreatment reoccurrence.  The National Family Preservation Network (NFPN) has one of the few reliable and valid family assessment tools for reunification.

For information on the NCFAS-G+R family assessment tool and training visit http://www.nfpn.org/assessment-tools/ncfas-gr-training-package

Intensive Family Reunification Services:  Various studies show that intensive services for reunifying families are effective.  NFPN’s largest reunification study found that various factors such as race, marital status, employment, substance abuse, mental health, and domestic violence did not hinder reunifying families through intensive services.  Factors that had a positive effect on the durability of the reunification were concrete services, step-down services, and father involvement.

To read the full research article visit http://www.nfpn.org/reunification/reunification-research

NFPN has a reunification model that has been used by several states in developing their model of intensive services.

To view the reunification model visit http://www.nfpn.org/reunification/reunification-model

Frequent and regular visits of parents with children:  Children who have regular visits with their families are more likely to reunify.  Hess and Proch (1993) portray visits as the heart of reunification.  Parent/child visits are important because:

  • Visiting maintains family relationships: only if relationships are maintained will the family be reunited.
  • Visiting empowers and informs parents: during visits, parents are reassured about their ability to act as parents and to provide at least some care for their children. Visits also allow parents to identify strengths and weaknesses as parents. Visiting provides both parents and children an opportunity to practice new behaviors and skills.
  • Visiting enhances children’s wellbeing: the trauma of a child’s separation from the parent and feelings of abandonment are decreased, and the improved psychological health of the child enhances the child’s developmental progress.
  • Visiting provides a transition to home: by observing family interactions during visits caseworkers can identify issues that must be resolved prior to reunification, determine the family’s progress, address the timing and sequence for returning children, and identify issues that must continue to be addressed following reunification.

To read more about parent/child visits, especially focusing on father-child visits see http://www.nfpn.org/father-involvement/father-child-visits

Foster Parent Support of Birth Parents: Foster parents can have a big impact on reunification by supporting the birth parents.  For an excellent tip sheet on how foster parents can help, visit https://www.americanbar.org/content/dam/aba/administrative/child_law/ParentRep/Reunification_Tip_Sheet.authcheckdam.pdf?utm_source=Professionals&utm_campaign=6cd0d7df44-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_E-Notes_September_2017&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_9bab4b66b7-6cd0d7df44-292527401

To view the entire Gateway document visit: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/supporting-successful-reunifications/

For  information on reunification models, visit the Preserving Families Blog at https://preservingfamiliesblog.wordpress.com/2018/04/10/reunification-models/


Posted by Priscilla Martens, NFPN Executive Director

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