Drug Testing in Child Welfare

Drug Testing in Child WelfareDrug 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 enough 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, including 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 factor in the removal of a child from the home or to determine parental visitation. For more information on identifying substance use disorders, visit NCSACW’s Screening and Assessment webpage.

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    • Understanding Screening and Assessment of Substance Use Disorders – Child Welfare Practice Tips
      Understanding Screening and Assessment of Substance Use Disorders – Child Welfare Practice Tips(PDF 496 KB)

      National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, 2019

      Child welfare professionals can use this technical assistance tool to access information about identifying and addressing substance use disorders by parents involved with child welfare services, including signs and symptoms, screening practices, and referral for assessment.

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