Many parents who interact with the child welfare system present with substance use issues, which means their children are at risk for prenatal exposure to alcohol and other drugs.
Because child welfare agencies play an important role in identifying and providing services to mitigate negative impacts of prenatal exposures, the authors conducted a search for literature addressing child welfare information sources, policies, and practices related to this population. The search yielded 16 research/evaluation and 16 policy/practice papers, with most addressing exposures to both alcohol and other drugs. The literature most commonly reports that children identified as exposed are referred to child protection agencies during the newborn period. This practice may lead to underidentification, especially of children with prenatal exposure to alcohol. Research suggests that this population is at risk for poorer child welfare outcomes and that there are specific service needs for these children.
This review indicates that there is an overall lack of research literature regarding identification of prenatally exposed children involved in the child welfare system that could best inform child welfare policies and practices. Studies investigating how the child welfare system identifies and cares for children with prenatal exposures are needed.
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Richards, T., Bertrand, J., Newburg-Rinn, S., McCann, H., Morehouse, E., & Ingoldsby, E. (2020). Children prenatally exposed to alcohol and other drugs: What the literature tells us about child welfare information sources, policies, and practices to identify and care for children. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 1–24. https://doi.org/10.1080/15548732.2020.1814478