Parental Substance Use as Child Abuse - Tennessee

Date: July 2019

Citation: Ann. Code § 37-1-102(23)(D), (E) 

The term 'severe child abuse' includes either of the following:

  • Knowingly allowing a child to be present within a structure where the act of creating methamphetamine is occurring
  • Knowingly or with gross negligence allowing a child younger than age 8 to ingest an illegal substance or a controlled substance that results in the child testing positive on a drug screen, except as legally prescribed to the child

Citation: Admin. Pol. & Proc. # 14.1, Work Aid # 1

An allegation of drug-exposed child pertains to a person younger than age 18 to whom any of the following applies:

  • Has been exposed to, or is experiencing withdrawal from, the use, sale, or manufacture of a drug or chemical substance, including, but not limited to, alcohol (such as a diagnosis of fetal alcohol syndrome), cannabis, hallucinogens, stimulants, sedatives, narcotics, methamphetamines, heroin, or inhalants, which could adversely affect the child's physical, mental, or emotional functioning as a result of the actions or behaviors of the parent or caregiver
  • Has a parent or caregiver that uses drugs or chemical substances that affect their ability to adequately care for the child
  • Has a parent or caregiver that has current addiction issues that could adversely affect the child’s physical, mental, or emotional functioning

Note: The manufacturing of methamphetamine where children are present or in close proximity will always be considered severe abuse.

Citation: Admin. Pol. & Proc. # 14.21

The Department of Children's Services shall intervene and respond timely to allegations involving drug-exposed children (DEC) by screening and assigning reports made to the child abuse hotline to child protection services based on the severity of or potential for physical, mental, or emotional harm to the child.

A referral that meets the definition of DEC will be assigned to the investigation track when one or more of the following applies:

  • The alleged child victim is younger than age 2.
  • The alleged child victim has a positive drug screen for an illegal or unprescribed drug.
  • The alleged perpetrator directly administers, provides, or uses legal or illegal drugs, resulting in harm to the alleged child victim. 
  • The parent/caregiver's misuse of prescription medication has caused physical, mental, or emotional harm.
  • The alleged child victim and/or mother had a positive drug screen at birth.
  • The referral involves the manufacturing of methamphetamine.