Identifying substance abusing delivering women: consequences for child maltreatment reports

Child Abuse Negl. 2000 Feb;24(2):173-83. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(99)00126-x.


Objective: The major objective was to determine how and the extent to which SB2669, which requires the identification of substance abusing delivering women, affected the number of children reported for abuse or neglect in several California counties.

Method: A monthly time-series model from April 1988 to December 1995 was constructed. The idea underlying the model was that month-to-month changes in the number of child maltreatment reports was a response to the presence of SB2669 in addition to various demographic, social, and economic factors. By separately estimating each county's number of reports, it was assumed that SB2669 did not necessarily affect each county's reports by the same amount, perhaps partially because of different counties' implementation strategies or general policies. Our sampling size consisted of seven high prevalence counties.

Results: The results suggest that the effects of SB2669 on the number of child maltreatment reports are mixed. On an aggregate level, all else constant, and at least for a few years after the passage of SB2669, SB2669 is associated with a decrease in child maltreatment reports in two of the participating counties. This decrease may be due to conscientious implementation of the legislation in these counties. This mixed finding is expected mainly because SB2669, although mandated, was never enforced. Moreover, from the process component of the study we learned that the implementation practices of this legislation vary substantially between and even within counties' hospitals.

Conclusions/future directions: A decrease in maltreatment reports in the presence of SB2669 is not necessarily the most desirable outcome in the light of what we know about the relationship between substance abuse and child maltreatment. Law makers need to rethink the purpose of the law and provide the necessary language, tools and training to ensure that the goals of identifying substance abusing mothers and their families are met. Provisions also need to be made that somehow enforce this legislation. These provisions could lessen county-level and hospital-level variability in implementing the law.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Advocacy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Delivery, Obstetric / psychology*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, County
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Mothers / psychology*
  • Nevada / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology