Public Release: 

Georgia State receives $3.9 million grant to Enhance Safety and Well-Being of Children of Drug Court Participants

Georgia State University

ATLANTA--Georgia State University has received a $3.9 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for a project that will better the lives of children and families of substance-abusing individuals who receive treatment through the DeKalb County Drug Court.

Daniel Whitaker of the Institute of Public Health and the Center for Healthy Development (CHD) and Wendy Guastaferro of the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at Georgia State will lead the project, funded by the HHS's Administration for Children and Families grant.

The project is a multi-agency collaboration involving Georgia State, the DeKalb County Superior Court Drug Court, Lutheran Services of Georgia and the Georgia Center on Child Advocacy. Other collaborators include the Georgia Department of Family and Children's Services, the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities, and the DeKalb County Community Service Board.

Substance abuse is strongly related to child abuse and neglect, with up to 70 percent of parents involved in the child protective service system having a history of substance use or abuse.

"The project will provide a set of services to a very high-risk population that doesn't necessarily receive those services, children of chronic substance abusers involved multiple times in drug offenses," said Whitaker, the leader of the National SafeCare Training and Research Center within the CHD.

"Children of substance abusers experience a wide range of poor outcomes, ranging from psychological problems to academic issues. We will be implementing a set of evidence-based programs, focusing on children, and we think that is a good solution."

Several evidence-based services will be implemented, including parenting programs and evidence-based trauma treatments. SafeCare, one of the models to be used, has been shown to improve parenting and reduce child maltreatment.

The evaluation team will examine how SafeCare and other services improve outcomes for children of drug court participants.

The drug court program was created to interrupt the cycle of crime driven by addiction. The DeKalb program is a leader in providing evidence-based, effective services and producing strong outcomes, said Guastaferro, an assistant professor in criminal justice.

Treatment addresses drug addiction and factors known to lead to criminal behavior, such as the lack of problem-solving skills and pro-criminal attitudes.

"The drug court program addresses these needs as well as employment and housing," she said. "Many participants, however, have been abused, homeless and victimized during the course of their lives. Given these experiences, we recognized the need for trauma care services for all participants, and most participants are parents."

Guastaferro noted that court participants are eager to participate in improved services to help them become better parents.

"Seventy-two percent said they would participate in parenting classes, and many also believed their spouse or partner would participate," she said.


For more about the Institute of Public Health and the Center for Healthy Development at Georgia State, visit For more about the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology, visit

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