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July/August 2022Vol. 23, No. 6Brief Explores Drug Testing in the Child Welfare System

recent brief from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW) provides guidance to child welfare agencies for developing policy and practice protocols related to the use of drug testing. The brief, which is the first of a two-part series on the topic, covers four steps: 

  1. Determine the purpose of drug testing 
  2. Determine whom to test and when 
  3. Determine a method of testing 
  4. Determine a budget for testing 
The brief notes that drug testing in child welfare should be part of a comprehensive approach to identify, assess, and support parents who are affected by substance use. Additionally, since individual bias may occur when testing decisions are left to individual workers, agencies should develop a standardized, equitable process for identifying which parents should be drug tested. 

The recommendations in the brief are informed by best practices in the field and a comprehensive literature review. NCSACW also recommends that agencies collaborate and coordinate with substance use disorder treatment providers and the courts. 

More information is available in the full brief, Brief 1: Considerations for Developing a Child Welfare Drug Testing Policy and Protocol, which includes questions to consider and resources for child welfare professionals. For additional information on drug testing in child welfare, the second brief in the series, Brief 2: Drug Testing for Parents Involved in Child Welfare: Three Key Practice Points, describes general considerations to help child welfare professionals implement drug testing in their practice.