Parental Substance Use as Child Abuse - Rhode Island

Date: July 2019

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-2(1)

'Abused and/or neglected child' means a child whose physical or mental health or welfare is harmed or threatened with harm when his or her parent or other person responsible for his or her welfare fails to provide the child with a minimum degree of care or proper supervision or guardianship because of his or her unwillingness or inability to do so by situations or conditions such as, but not limited to, social problems, mental incompetency, or the use of a drug, drugs, or alcohol to the extent that the parent or other person responsible for the child's welfare loses his or her ability or is unwilling to properly care for the child.

Citation: Gen. Laws § 40-11-6

When any physician, duly certified registered nurse practitioner, or other health-care provider is involved in the delivery or care of infants born with, or identified as being affected by, substance abuse or withdrawal symptoms resulting from prenatal drug exposure or a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, he or she shall report the incident or cause a report thereof to be made to the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

Citation: DCYF Oper. Proc. # 500.0080

In accordance with Federal and State law, the DCYF must identify infants at risk of child abuse and neglect as a result of prenatal substance exposure, ensure that a plan of safe care is developed for these infants, and ensure the referral of these infants and their affected caregivers to appropriate services. For the purposes of this operating procedure, the term 'affected by substance abuse'means the presence of any of the following in the mother:

  • Misuse of a legal substance
  • Use of an illicit substance

All substance-exposed newborns must have a plan of safe care at the time of discharge from the birthing hospital. Plans of safe care address the health needs of the newborn and the substance use disorder treatment needs of the parent and/or caregiver. The plan of safe care may include recommendations for services such as home visitation, early intervention, and recovery supports.

A child protective services (CPS) report must be made to the CPS hotline for all reports of substance-exposed infants that meet the criteria for child abuse and neglect, including any of the following:

  • A newborn has a positive toxicology screen for illegal or nonprescribed substances.
  • A newborn is treated for neonatal abstinence syndrome as the result of maternal use of illegal, nonprescribed, or misuse of prescribed medication, or due to undetermined substance exposure.
  • The mother of a newborn tests positive for an illegal, nonprescribed medication, and the infant has not tested positive.
  • A newborn has fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
  • The case includes a substance-exposed newborn with safety concerns.