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Drug Testing in Child Welfare

Drug testing is a tool that can be used to determine if a parent is using substances and to facilitate decision making with families affected by substance use disorders. Drug testing refers to the use of biologic sources, such as urine, saliva, sweat, hair, breath, blood, and meconium to identify specific substances or their metabolites in an individual’s system. However, drug tests do not provide sufficient information for substantiating allegations of child abuse or neglect or for making decisions about the disposition of a case. The most effective way to identify a substance use disorder or determine if a child is at risk for maltreatment or neglect is to use a combination of screening and assessment tools inclusive of safety and risk assessments, clinical instruments, random drug testing, self-reports, and observations of behavioral indicators. Assuming there are no other safety concerns, a positive drug test or a series of positive drug tests should not be used as the sole determining factor in the removal of a child from the home or to determine parental visitation.

The resources on this page provide an overview of the general best practice guidelines of drug testing in child welfare and across systems.

  • Highlighted Resource

    • Guidelines for Identifying Substance-Exposed Newborns
      (PDF 888KB)

      These guidelines were created to address the growing epidemic of prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs, they provide best practice resources for combatting the issue, improve the ability of health care providers to effectively identify at-risk pregnancies and substance-exposed newborns, standardize recommendations in screening, treatment and management.

      View Document
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