Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock () or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

September 2022Vol. 23, No. 7Drug Testing Brief Provides Practice Tips for Child Welfare Workers and Supervisors

The National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare released part 2 of a series of briefs on drug testing in child welfare. The first brief in the series was written for child welfare administrators and policymakers and highlights key steps to consider when developing drug-testing policies for child welfare practice. The second brief, Drug Testing for Parents Involved in Child Welfare: Three Key Practice Points, outlines drug-testing practice considerations for child welfare workers and supervisors when implementing drug testing in their practice.  


The brief includes three key practice points designed to help child welfare workers consider drug testing using an engagement approach that promotes family well-being and recovery:


  • Drug testing is just one tool used to guide case planning and permanency decisions with families affected by substance use disorders (SUDs).
  • Drug testing can provide caseworkers with opportunities to discuss a parent’s substance use and motivate them to follow their case plans and engage in treatment.
  • A strengths-based, motivational approach to engagement supports the well-being of children and families.


Key takeaways include the following:


  • Drug test results alone cannot identify an SUD.
  • Drug test results alone cannot determine if a parent is abstinent or in recovery.
  • Early identification and treatment of SUDs are critical for successful outcomes.
  • Caseworkers should base decisions on facts and not assumptions about parents.
  • Motivational interviewing can enhance engagement and retention in SUD treatment.
  • Restricting family time should never be used as a punishment.


The series of briefs aims to highlight the importance of agencies and workers understanding the benefits and limitations of drug testing in child welfare. Agencies risk relying too heavily on drug test results when making decisions about child placement, and drug testing can be expensive and limited in terms of determining child risk and safety.


Read the full brief, Drug Testing for Parents Involved in Child Welfare: Three Key Practice Points for more information.


Related Item


To learn more about part 1 of the series, visit the Children's Bureau Express article "Brief Explores Drug Testing in the Child Welfare System," found in the July/August 2022 issue (Vol. 23, No. 6).