April 11, 2022

Many of Washington’s children have a caregiver or parent struggling with opioid use disorder. Their addiction, along with accompanying health problems and, for many, a history of trauma, can make it difficult for them to respond consistently to their children’s needs. For children, family life may become more stressful and less predictable, increasing the risk of physical, social and mental health problems.

A $1.5 million three-year grant from the Foundation for Opioid Response Efforts (FORE) will enable researchers at the School of Social Work’s Social Development Research Group to create the Northwest Center for Family Support. This first-of-its kind technical assistance and training center will build capacity within opioid treatment programs to deliver culturally responsive, evidence-based, family-focused interventions that support caregivers and children during the recovery process.

Once operational, the Northwest Center for Family Support hopes to reach about 1,100 families during the three-year project. The interventions will strengthen parenting skills to enhance safety and stability in the home, and reinforce family behaviors that protect against substance misuse and emotional and behavioral problems in children.

The project’s principal investigator is Margaret Kuklinski, associate professor at the School of Social Work and director of the Social Development Research Group. To reach project goals, SDRG will work in collaboration with experts from UW Addictions, Drug, and Alcohol Institute; UW School of Nursing; Seattle Children’s Research Institute; Washington State University; and Washington Health Care Authority. An advisory board made up of leaders from licensed opioid treatment sites across the state, caregivers with lived experience of opioid use disorder, and other stakeholders will ensure the center meets the specific needs of families in recovery.

The School of Social Work was one of nine grantees selected by FORE out of an applicant pool of 400. “We’re delighted to receive these funds from FORE,” said Kuklinski. “The grant will enable us to work with opioid treatment sites across Washington state, bringing evidence-based support to families recovering from opioid use disorder. Our approach will be scalable and has the potential to be replicated across the country.”

Kuklinski is an expert in evidence-based family-focused preventive interventions, substance use prevention, health economics, and the role of risk and protection in positive youth development. As director of SDRG, she oversees a multidisciplinary group of prevention scientists, practitioners, and survey research and data collection experts.

For more than 40 years, researchers at the School’s Social Development Research Group have sought to understand and promote healthy behaviors and positive social development among diverse populations. Using science and community input, the group develops and tests change strategies for families, schools and communities.