Policy Resource

Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (Ohio)

Feb 9, 2016

Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) serve families with young children who have experienced child neglect or abuse and parental substance use disorders, focusing on helping parents overcome their addictions and promoting parental capacity to care for their children.

Highly trained family mentors and child protective service workers team up to work with families with substantiated abuse or neglect and child safety risks, with children at least 5 years or younger, often including substance-exposed newborns. A study of 320 families served nationally found that 70% of mothers achieved and maintained sobriety, nearly double the typical rate of success of 39% in other programs. Many successful families have been able to care for their children, develop better parental skills, and pursue education and other work. Key partners in START include judges, foster parents, mental health providers, and substance abuse providers.

The START program was first initiated in Cleveland, Ohio in 1997. Created through the office of Ohio Attorney General, Mike DeWine, Ohio START requires the partnering of county Public Children Services Agencies (PCSAs), behavioral health providers and juvenile/family courts. A key element of this program is a family peer mentor. A family peer mentor is paired with a children services caseworker to provide intensive case management services. Ohio START emphasizes a wraparound approach for at-risk parents which includes frequent home visits and mentorship from people who have experience with recovery and the child protection system.

Ohio’s START program is highlighted in A Call to Action on Behalf of Maltreated Infants and Toddlers, a policy agenda released by ZERO TO THREE and partners in 2011. The policy agenda represents the group’s collective vision on the important steps that can and should be taken in policies, programs, and practices to better address the developmental needs of infants and toddlers who come to the attention of the child welfare system.

Reviewed May 2018.

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