Drug Testing Parents & Family Drug Courts
The removal of NH children from substance abuse
environments has risen 387% in the past 7 years!
Abuse of drugs or alcohol by parents and other caregivers can have negative effects on the health, safety, and well-being of children. According to the information from the Children's Bureau and the Child Welfare Gateway's Parental Drug Use is Child Abuse report, many States have responded to the abuse of drugs or alcohol problem by expanding the civil definition of child abuse or neglect to include this concern. Click to read the article: Perfect Storm for Children In Need about how "abused and neglected children in NH are often not being cared for as they should be, and policymakers, parents and citizens need to take action before we let one more child suffer." Why is the state resistant to drug testing parents who have had their children removed by DCYF?
Parental Substance Abuse is a Factor in Approximately 80% of Cases Referred to DCYF
NH has the 3rd highest re-entry rate in the U.S. for children re-entering foster care within a year of being reunified. NH also has the 2nd highest drug overdose death rate in the nation. One can not underestimate how closely these statistics are related. For each overdose death in NH, at least 10 individuals are estimated to have survived. The number of living substance misusers expands further. Several are impaired but do not overdose. Many of these people have children who end up in foster care.
According to the state's DHHS, more than 20,000 reports of neglect and abuse are now made annually in NH. Most cases are not related to abuse. Neglect and parental substance abuse are the primary factors in approximately 80% of cases referred to DCYF. Dr. Julie Kim, in a September 2017 Concord Monitor article reports that sadly 60-80% of parents whose children enter protective services were once referred as children themselves. She goes on to say, children learn the behaviors modeled by their parents and that the problems that come from opioid addiction pass through generations.
Dr. Kim believes that a parent's fight to re-gain custody of their child is synonymous to fighting to keep one's children out of foster care. Unfortunately, a vast majority of these children enter kinship care or are placed with other guardians, or foster care with strangers. Meanwhile, parents have 12 months to become successfully rehabilitated and be reunified with their children. Foster parents are reporting that many birth parents have been known to provide inaccurate 1st person accounts of their rehabilitative efforts or deny their substance misuse. DCYF either does not have the resources to hold parents accountable or they are not willing to look at the larger issue facing NH's child welfare system. Parents may win their court case, but they are losing the opportunity for help and the cycle most often continues.
Family Drug Courts
Children deserve to grow up in a safe and drug free environment. Staff retention and additional CPSW's at DCYF would be helpful, but it is not the ultimate solution. More and more children are predicted to enter or re-enter foster care due to parental drug use and overdoses. The culture of how NH handles substance misusing or abusing parents needs to change. Family drug courts look appear to be a more viable option to help parents get the help they need and to bring families back together. Unlike criminal courts, family drug courts focus on family centered care that surrounds the best interests of the child, not the parent who may be at fault. Dr. Kim says, "Family drug courts uphold that the best interest for a child is appropriate involvement with parents who achieve recovery in an intact home. Family drug courts provide the safety parents need to seek rehabilitation while receiving support to keep their family together."
Foster parents can strive to be heard amongst legislators, DCYF, the Assistant Commissioner for DCYF and the Governor's Office at the State House. Dr. Kim reports that many other states have proven the success of family drug courts. She stated that 20-30% more parents who participate in family drug courts complete drug treatment than those who do not and 20-40% more families remain intact long-term. The Alliance agrees with Dr. Kim that NH should implement family drug courts. Given these statistics and our looming substance abuse crisis the question remains, so why are there none in New Hampshire?
A special thank you to Dr. Julie Kim, Hematology/Oncology Physician in Manchester for her insightful contribution to the Concord Monitor. Click to read the full article, My Turn: Invest in Family Drug Courts or to read: Record Number of Opioid Overdoses Set in September for Manchester.
We urge you to reach out to your local state representative!
Our legislators need to hear real stories about how parental addiction impacts our foster children.
Your voice can help make a difference! Our legislators speak for the people- but how can they give a true account of the need for parental drug testing and the need for Family Drug Courts if they can't defend the harm parent drug use is causing children in NH? It's easy and it only takes a few minutes! Reach out to your state representative by email, social media, phone or snail mail.
RSA 169-C:12-e will stop going into effect July 1, 2020 and needs our support right now so that it can be revised. We need to advocate for the youngest victims of this state-wide opioid epidemic. NH does not permit ballot initiatives, therefore a petition signed by a certain number of registered voters cannot force a referendum (public vote). In order to promote a revision of this law we must advocate that children will continue to suffer emotional, psychological and even sometimes physical health problems and/or serious impairments when they are exposed to substance abusing parents.
In NH, Criminal Code Chapter 639-A:2 Methamphetamine-Related Crimes clearly states that it is against the law for someone to willingly engage in the creation, usage, storage or disposal of meth related products or paraphernalia. It's against the law in NH to expose a child to meth or obtaining this drug. Why don't we have a law about the harm caused to children by exposure to other illegal drug activity such as heroin? Foster parents have a unique perspective on how a parent's substance abuse has caused harm to their foster child and our legislators at the State House need to hear from you to support changes in our legislature. This is how we can collectively support safer reunifications and help birth parents get the help they need for successful rehabilitation. Tell your legislator that we need 639-A:2 needs to be revised to include other substances and that you support The Child Protection Act 169-C:12-e and you agree that a parent's drug use causes harm to children. For more information go to: The National Institute on Drug Use.
308:1 Statement of Findings The general court finds and declares that the state of New Hampshire is facing an epidemic regarding the misuse and abuse of opiates, including, but not limited to, heroin and fentanyl. A parent's use of these drugs can pose a substantial threat to the safety of the children living in the home. Consistent with the purposes of the child protection act, this act will help the department to insure the safety of the children living in the home, will enable the department to provide services to the parents and family to help them address their drug use so that they can safely parent their children and shall be administered to insure the preservation and unity of the family whenever possible. June 1, 2016, CHAPTER 308, SB 515-FN
- 169-C:12-d Court-Ordered Alcohol and Drug Testing. – The court may order alcohol or drug testing at any stage of the proceeding where substance abuse is an ongoing issue in the case, where alcohol or drug use is a disputed issue of fact, or where there is reason to believe that alcohol or drug use may be substantially interfering with a parent's ability to adhere to the case plan. Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the frequency and type of such testing shall be at the discretion of the department. Source. 2016, 308:3, eff. July 1, 2016.
169-C:12-e Rebuttable Presumption of Harm. – Evidence of a custodial parent's opioid drug abuse or opioid drug dependence, as defined in RSA 318-B:1, I or RSA 318-B:1, IX, shall create a rebuttable presumption that the child's health has suffered or is very likely to suffer serious impairment. The presumption may be rebutted by evidence of the parent's compliance with treatment for such use or dependence. Source. 2016, 308:2, eff. June 21, 2016.
Together we can make difference!
It's easy to contact your state representative. Once you know who your local representative is then you can email him/her about your ideas and concerns. Of course you are free to reach out to any elected official, but you will be most effective by contacting legislators who represent your position in the town/city in which you live in.
If you want to share a story with your legislator, please be sure to uphold the law under RSA 170, as well as the DHHS/DCYF rules of confidentiality. Do not give identifying information or demographics to your representative. For more information go to RSA 170-E:35 and He-C 6446.24(e) or pg. 3 of the NH foster parent handbook to review these confidentiality policies. If you prefer to share your experience anonymously, go to our Share page and fill out the form and include the anonymous email provided in the instructions.
We are the voices for our foster children!! Our state representatives need to know what it is really like to be a foster parent and the types of issues our foster children are dealing with. You can also contact the Governor's Office or the Assistant Commissioner for DCYF. For specific concerns when a foster child is set to be reunified with a continued substance misusing or abusing parents, fill out this Privacy Waiver form and contact the Director of Citizen Services at the State House.