24, No. 1
Prevention via the Plan of Safe Care
Each year in the U.S., approximately 585,000 babies are born having been exposed to alcohol or drugs during pregnancy (Gardner, 2014). The impact on the infant varies based on the substance used, the extent and timing of the mother's use, and other factors (Behnke & Smith, 2013). While many of these children do well, some face life-long consequences. To improve outcomes for all children, we must focus on early identification and prevention of perinatal substance use.
A Period of Risk and Opportunity
If we are intentional in how we work with these families, we can decrease the long-term impact of prenatal substance use and prevent future child maltreatment.
A Plan of Safe Care
POSCs focus on getting services and supports in place for the mother, child, and family as quickly as possible. Caring for a newborn can be challenging, so we want to do all we can to help make this transition safe and successful, while pushing the mother toward recovery.
How POSCs Aid Prevention Efforts
POSCs often involve voluntary services. Some notifications from medical providers do not meet the criteria for abuse and neglect and are screened out by CPS. For example:
By developing a POSC and referring these at-risk families to CC4C, CPS increases chances that services will be put in place to prevent future child welfare involvement.
Targeted parent education. CC4C provides parent education specific to families' needs. When substance use is an issue, CC4C staff teach parents to spot signs of withdrawal or developmental concerns in their child and when to seek medical attention or evaluation. Because rates of unintentional infant death are higher when parents or caregivers use substances, CC4C also educates parents and caregivers about safe sleep practices.
Ongoing connection with medical providers. Children exposed prenatally to substance use need ongoing follow up and preventative screenings by their medical provider to ensure they receive early detection and treatment for medical or developmental concerns. Families receiving CC4C services get preventative medical care at rates 10% higher than the average population (CC4C, personal communication, December 12, 2018).
Early identification and intervention is key in working with families and children affected by substance use. Giving these families access to affordable, effective services is a way to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of both the child and mother, while preventing further maltreatment (SAMSHA, 2016).
For more information and resources related to Plans of Safe Care, visit https://bit.ly/2TCUN1e