HD6 - Second Report on Newborn Infants Dependent on Controlled Substances

Executive Summary:
Senate Bill 557 (1998) and House Bill 803 (1998) amended Section 63.1-248.3 of the Code of Virginia to require physicians to file a report with the local department of social services (local departments) when a newborn infant evidences exposure to non-prescription, controlled substances or signs of fetal alcohol syndrome. When abuse or neglect is found, the local departments' child protective services workers are required, by Section 63.1-248.6, to arrange for necessary protective and rehabilitative services for the child and his family.

This 1998 legislation further required the Department of Social Services (the Department) to report on the implementation of the legislation in each of the three years following enactment. This is the report on the second year of implementation. It includes information compiled in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Virginia and in conjunction with the Board of Medicine; the Departments of Health; Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services; and the Office of the Executive Secretary of the Supreme Court of Virginia.

During the eleven-month time frame covered by this report, July 1, 1999 through June 6, 2000, local departments received 296 reports from medical personnel alleging that an infant had in-utero exposure to an illicit substance or alcohol. The Department reviewed 50 of these 296 reports. This case review showed that of the 50 cases reviewed:

• Cocaine was the most commonly used drug.

• Mothers were long-term drug users.

• Mothers had a history of involvement with child protective services programs and had other children in placement with relatives.

• Postnatal, environmental factors associated with maternal drug use such as poverty, neglect, unsafe home environments, family violence, and criminality present additional developmental risks for drug exposed infants.

The Department formed an interagency work group to assess implementation data. This work group plans the following activities for the third implementation year.

Activity 1: Continued data collection on the demographics of and services needed by substance-exposed infants and their mothers.

Activity 2: Enhanced state and local interagency collaborative services on behalf of postpartum substance abusing women and their children through planning among the Departments of Health; Social Services; and Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Substance Abuse Services.

Activity 3: Provision of training for local department child protective services workers on substance abuse issues and interdisciplinary training for professionals working with perinatal substance abuse.

Activity 4: Continued use of local interagency protocols and agreements among local departments of social services, community services boards, and hospitals to improve collaborative relationships and permit information sharing while protecting the individual's privacy in accordance with federal substance abuse and child protective services confidentiality regulations.