Parental Substance Use as Child Abuse - Vermont

Date: July 2019

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., Policy 50

The term 'risk of harm' means a significant danger that a child will suffer serious harm by other than by accidental means, which harm would be likely to cause physical injury as the result of any of the following:

  • The production or preproduction of methamphetamines when a child is actually present
  • Failing to provide supervision or care appropriate for the child's age or development due to the use of illegal substances or the misuse of prescription drugs or alcohol
  • Failing to supervise appropriately a child in a situation in which drugs, alcohol, or drug paraphernalia are accessible to the child

Citation: Fam. Serv. Pol. Man., Policy 51

The Family Division will conduct an assessment under the following circumstances:

  • When there is substance abuse by a pregnant woman and the following apply: 
    • A physician certifies or the mother admits to using illegal substances, using nonprescribed prescription medication, or misusing prescription medication during the last trimester of her pregnancy. 
    • There is an allegation that there is likely to be a serious threat to a child's health or safety due to the mother's substance use during pregnancy, and intervention before a child's birth may assist the family to remediate the issues and avoid the need for Department for Children and Families custody after the birth. 
    • An assessment may begin approximately 1 month before the due date or sooner, if medical findings indicate that the mother may deliver early.
  • When there are concerns regarding a newborn infant, as follows:
    • A newborn has a positive toxicology screen for illegal substances or prescription medication not prescribed to the patient or administered by a physician.
    • A newborn has been deemed by a medical professional to have neonatal abstinence syndrome as the result of maternal use of illegal substances or nonprescribed prescription medication.
    • A newborn has been deemed by a medical professional to have fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

The division does not intervene in situations where the sole concern is a pregnant woman's use of marijuana or a newborn's prenatal exposure to marijuana.

The division's initial safety intervention shall be an investigation if it alleges substantial child endangerment, including, but not limited to, allegations that a person responsible for a child’s welfare allowed a child to be exposed to methamphetamine production or preproduction.