Substance-Exposed Infants: How States Help
By Virginia Hartman
A redesign for the Web site and a new publication on substance-exposed infants are just a few of the updates for SAMHSA’s National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare (NCSACW).
NCSACW’s updated Web site is optimized so that stakeholder groups can find the information they need quickly, choosing from relevant topics tailored to child welfare, substance abuse, and the courts.
Online training courses on substance use disorders and child welfare are available. Several states now require that child welfare workers pass these courses. In addition, there are courses for family law practitioners. Resource materials and helpful models from around the Nation on how they “improved systems linkages” are also provided.
“Media coverage about substance-exposed newborns may fall off the front pages,” said Nancy K. Young, Ph.D., NCSACW Director, “but that doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.”
Dr. Young is one of the authors of a new SAMHSA publication, Substance-Exposed Infants: State Responses to the Problem. The publication’s goal is to identify ways that states have addressed the issue. The authors suggest a cross-agency unified approach to the issue that affects more than 7 million children under age 18 and could affect the Nation’s communities for generations to come.
Statistics included in the study show that each year, an estimated 400,000 to 440,000 infants (10 to 11 percent of all births) are affected by prenatal alcohol or illicit drug exposure. This can cause a spectrum of physical, emotional, and developmental problems that can be long-lasting, especially if the situation is not detected and early intervention put in place right away.
“We’re placing the emphasis on prevention,” said Dr. Young. “Policy changes may often start with the substance abuse treatment agency, but the health department, the education department, the child welfare department, income support—all of the state agencies that touch families—need to be on the same page to help prevent and address this issue.”
According to Dr. Young, 10 to 11 percent of all births is “a very important number, because it can be an indicator of later involvement in child welfare services and the child neglect and education issues that become remediation instead of prevention.”
Sharon Amatetti, SAMHSA Project Officer for the publication, noted that most studies and discussions about substance-exposed newborns focus on the period of pregnancy and birth. However, the authors felt that this timeframe was too limited. Instead, the study analyzes how the states are doing in five areas: (1) pre-pregnancy prevention efforts; (2) prenatal screening; (3) detection at birth; (4) neonatal care; and (5) services to substance-exposed infants and their families as the child develops.
Download Substance-Exposed Infants: State Responses to the Problem. Learn more about NCSACW.