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Dec/Jan 2005Vol. 5, No. 10Substance-Exposed Newborns and the Law

The Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 requires States to have policies and procedures for health-care providers to notify child protective services (CPS) of cases of suspected prenatal exposure to alcohol and drugs and to develop a "plan of safe care" for such infants. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), through their Children's Policy Initiative, has released a new publication that looks at how this new Federal requirement may potentially impact States by increasing the number of cases, presenting challenges to service delivery systems, and showing the need for multi-agency cooperation. The publication, Substance-Exposed Newborns: New Federal Law Raises Some Old Issues, describes the Federal requirements and provides an overview of existing State laws for reporting child abuse.

The paper also addresses the role of CPS and the place of prevention in reducing substance-exposed births. The wide range of CPS responses to substance-exposed newborns is noted, and the example of a community-based prevention program is provided. An appendix contains the text of State laws that require reporting of substance-exposed newborns.

This publication is available from the NCSL website at (PDF - 115 KB).