The impact of the opioid epidemic on children, their families, and on child-serving systems (early childhood education, schools, child welfare, etc.) is not well understood. A great deal of anecdotal information, coupled with still emerging research evidence and various promising innovations in practice, are all that can currently guide policymakers; and even these have not been thoroughly mined, framed, or distilled for the field.
This exploratory project will examine some of the most critical dimensions, urgent challenges, and important nuances for policymakers and others, drawing on a review of the existing literature and a deeper dive into two states at the forefront of the opioid epidemic.
The research team will begin with semi-structured interviews with up to 10-15 experts in the field (drawing from state and national organizations). Based on the literature review and insights from these key informants, the team will select two states to conduct site visits to learn more from community leaders, policymakers, services providers, and families themselves. Likely points of focus include some combination of early childhood systems, K-12 schools, and/or the child welfare system. Although child- and youth-serving systems will be the primary focus, the team will also explore how the epidemic and responses to the epidemic are also impacting children in the context of impacts on their parents, extended family members, other service systems/providers, and communities at large. Finally, the team will distill a variety of lessons learned for the field, included complex needs and dynamics that may not be well-known or appreciated. Innovative or promising approaches to responses/solutions, and principles that can guide still-to-be-developed ones, will also be featured prominently.