Promoting Resilience: Helping Young Children and Parents Affected by Substance Abuse, Domestic Violence, and Depression in the Context of Welfare Reform

Knitzer, Jane

Since the enactment of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996 (PRWORA), the major welfare reform legislation of the late 20th century, there have been dramatic reductions in welfare caseloads. Attention is now turning to how to meet the needs of those adults who are currently unable to enter the work force successfully and are thus likely to face time limits and sanctions. This issue brief focuses on a subset of this population, those who experience, either singly or in combination, domestic violence, substance abuse (including alcohol, drugs, and other substances), and serious mental health issues, including depression, and who are parents of young children. For these families, both common sense and research suggest that treatment and other interventions to help the adults become ready to work are crucial. But so, too, are interventions to address parenting issues and to promote resilience in their children—the ability to adapt and thrive even in the face of especially difficult circumstances. States are beginning to address the first challenge. This issue brief addresses the second, often ignored, challenge. It is organized in three sections. The first section highlights the dimensions of the challenge. The second section highlights service strategies to: (1) promote resilience, social competence, and school readiness in the children of the most vulnerable parents; (2) repair (or prevent) damaged parent-child relationships among young children whose parents face severe risks; and (3) ensure the safety of the children while helping parents meet the work-related goals of PRWORA. The third section suggests steps that policymakers, service providers, private funders, and advocates might take to improve outcomes for and investments in young children in high-risk families.


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National Center for Children in Poverty, Columbia University

More About This Work

Academic Units
National Center for Children in Poverty
Children and Welfare Reform, 8
Published Here
February 22, 2019