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Parental Substance Use as Child Abuse

Child Welfare Information Gateway – 2020

Substance use disorders—including abuse of drugs or alcohol—that affect parents and other caregivers can have negative effects on the health, safety, and well-being of children. All States, the District of Columbia, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have provisions within their child protection statutes, regulations, or policies that address the issue of substance use by parents.1 One major area of concern is responding to the care and treatment needs of substance-exposed infants. Another major concern is addressing the harm that a child of any age can suffer when the parents’ use of alcohol or other substances leads to neglect of the child or the child is exposed to illegal drug activity. For this publication, statutes, regulations, and policies regarding requirements for responding to reports of 1 Laws in American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and Puerto Rico do not currently address the issue of children affected by parental substance use. children affected by parental substance use were collected from across all States, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. territories, and an analysis of the information informs the discussion that follows.