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Substance-Exposed Newborn Infants And Public Health Law: Differences In Addressing The Legal Mandate To Report

Hoerr, Jordan J.; Heard, Anthony M.; Baker, Meredith M.; Fogel, Joshua.; Glassgow, Elizabeth.; Klinge, William C.; Clark, Maureen D.; Ronayne, James P. – 2018

Prenatal exposure to illicit substances is a finding that typically requires reporting to a child protective services agency. We examine whether there is differential reporting to two public agencies, and whether it varies by race/ethnicity and region. We also study predictors of indicating a maltreatment report as credible. Data on positive neonatal toxicology reports were obtained from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). Variation in reporting rates by race/ethnicity and region were compared with Pearson chi-square analysis. Multivariate logistic regression examined factors related to the likelihood of DCFS indicating a report as credible for maltreatment. IDPH recorded 1838 reports of substance-exposed newborn infants while DCFS only recorded 459 reports. There was a greater percentage of whites than blacks reported to DCFS as compared to those reported to IDPH (p < 0.001). There was a greater percentage of whites than blacks found to be indicated by DCFS as compared to those reported to IDPH (p < 0.001). Infants reported in rural areas were indicated less often (OR:0.34, 95% CI:0.17–0.67, p = 0.002) than those from urban areas. In conclusion, there was variation in reporting patterns between the two agencies. To optimize health outcomes for substance-exposed newborn infants (SEIs), the law should be clarified to provide clear standards for reporting and managing SEIs. Clinicians should ensure they are acting within the confines of existing law, and should engage in an interprofessional process with a broad array of stakeholders to develop statewide drug testing and reporting protocols. (Author abstract)