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Plans of Safe Care: An Issue Brief for Judicial Officers

Davis, Alicia.;DeCerchio, Ken – 2020

This federally funded brief is designed to assist judicial officers presiding over collaborative community court teams by providing information to help judicial officers assure the implementation of Plans of Safe Care (POSC) is in accordance with federal and State statues and regulations. It begins by explaining the Comprehensive Addiction Act of 2016 amended the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) related to infants affected by prenatal substance exposure and their families. Requirements were added to emphasize that POSC address the health needs of “infants born with and identified as being affected by substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure, or a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder”, and the substance use disorder (SUD) treatment needs of the family or caregiver. The legislation removed the term “illegal” when referring to substance use that could result in an infant affected by prenatal drug exposure, and requires a certification by the Governor that the State is implementing policies and procedures to address the needs of infants identified as being affected by the above conditions. The brief reviews the two critical and distinct roles judicial officers play in relation to POSC, including as the decision-maker at the individual family level and the judicial leader and convener at the community and systems level, bringing together community partners to improve systems and ensure access to necessary services for families in need of assistance. An overview of the CARA amendments to CAPTA is provided and key judicial considerations are discussed. Components of POSC are then reviewed, as well as best practices for identifying needed services and serving as the decision-maker and convener.