Child protection reports and removals of infants diagnosed with prenatal substance exposure

Child Abuse Negl. 2019 Feb:88:28-36. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.11.001. Epub 2018 Nov 13.


Background: A frequent response for prenatal substance exposure (PSE) is intervention by child protective services (CPS). Previous research has examined differences in reports to CPS regarding PSE by substance exposure and by maternal race. However, little is known regarding the frequency of immediate removals by CPS relating to PSE and maternal race.

Methods: We investigated hospital reports to CPS and CPS removals of PSE infants by using linked birth, hospital discharge, and CPS records for all children born in Washington State between 2006 and 2013 (N = 760,863). We identified PSE using diagnostic codes, calculated prevalence by substance type and maternal race, and tested for differences by interactions of race and substance using multinomial logistic regression.

Results: Prevalence of PSE births varied by race with 8.1% of Native American, 2.8% of black, 1.9% of white, and 0.8% of Hispanic births diagnosed with PSE. Opioids was the most common type of PSE diagnosis at 48.2%. The majority of PSE infants (86.7%) were not removed by CPS but variations by substance type were observed. Of the interactions in the multinomial logistic regression model, only black infants exposed to alcohol were more likely to result in reports to CPS without removal than the referent group of white infants exposed to opioids.

Conclusions: Findings indicate that most infants diagnosed with PSE were not removed by CPS and minority PSE infants were not reported to CPS or removed by CPS more than white infants. Racial differences identified in the prevalence of PSE present opportunities for targeted prevention efforts.

Keywords: Child maltreatment reporting; Child protective services; Prenatal substance exposure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Protective Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / ethnology*
  • Racial Groups / ethnology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance-Related Disorders / ethnology*
  • Washington / epidemiology
  • Washington / ethnology
  • Young Adult