Working Group to Study Drug-Endangered Kids

Jul 4, 2016

Children living in homes where caregivers are using, selling, or manufacturing drugs may see new protections as a result of a working group convening soon in Des Moines. 

The group will study the issue after a bill filed this year on drug-endangered children failed to pass. 

Child welfare advocates say fewer children are being tested for drugs in their systems under a new child abuse investigation protocol at the Iowa Department of Human Services.    But a DHS spokeswoman says more families are taking advantage of services under the new system.     

Dale Woolery at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy says child welfare is at stake.

“Once someone knows that caregivers have been drug-involved is that child or are the children in that home are they safe?” Woolery asks.    “Are they safe a month from now?   Six months from now?  What's happening to intervene in that situation?"

DHS officials agree drug-testing is down.   They say they no longer test for the presence of drugs in kids if the parents or guardians admit to drug use.

“There are many steps that go into assessing a child’s safety, and drug tests are one of the tools we use,” said DHS spokeswoman Amy McCoy.  

McCoy says more families are taking advantage of services under the new child abuse investigation system.

The working group will include child welfare advocates, substance abuse experts, and law enforcement.   They will issue a report before the legislature convenes in January.

“The concerns generally are for the welfare, what's best for children,” said Woolery.    

The bill which failed to pass the legislature this year would have required notifying law enforcement if investigators determine that a child is drug-endangered which would be a new term in Iowa law.  

Currently law enforcement is notified if a child is in imminent danger.