25 Child L. Prac. 1 (2006-2007)

handle is hein.journals/chilawpt25 and id is 1 raw text is: Child Law Pr

Vol. 25 No. 1

March 2006

Helping Lawyers Help Kids

Screening Young Children in Dependency Drug Court
by Lynne F Katz, Nurit Sheinberg, Angelika H. Claussen, Alison Baker

Many children on your caseload are
affected by parental substance
abuse. How often, if ever, are they
screened for developmental prob-
lems? Research shows a strong and
consistent relationship between
parental substance abuse and poor
parenting skills, resulting in a
decrease in parental ability to
provide children with stable, consis-
tent, and nurturing environments.1
Detecting developmental delays
early is critical to ensure adequate
early intervention services that
prevent long-term developmental
problems.2 Until recently, legal and
social service systems have not
routinely addressed developmental
issues in this population.
This article describes the results
of a pilot project for developmental
screening of infants and toddlers
ages zero-to-three whose parents
were voluntarily enrolled in the De-
pendency Drug Court in Miami-
Dade County, Florida. The context
for the study as well as practice rec-
ommendations are provided. The
project's goal was to determine po-
tential rates of developmental delays
for this population, thereby making
a case for referrals for developmen-
tal screenings. The Miami-Dade
County Dependency Drug Court is a
model court program established as
part of the larger national Family
Drug Court Initiative.

and the Honorable Jeri B. Cohen
Substance abuse, maltreatment
and developmental outcomes
Parents who abuse drugs and alco-
hol are at high risk for maltreating
their children. As a group, they tend
to be less supportive, less nurturing,
more intrusive and unresponsive,
and demonstrate a lack of consistent
discipline and monitoring towards
their children.' Moreover, parental
substance abuse tends to be related
to environmental conditions that
negatively impact children's devel-
opment such as poverty, parental
psychopathology, homelessness,
custody changes, low parental
education, inadequate nutrition,
poor prenatal care and low parental
education.4 The cumulative effect of
these risk factors leads to problem-
atic and generally inadequate
caregiving that negatively affects
children's development.5
Response of the legal and
child welfare system
Removal from the home is a com-
mon response after abuse or neglect
is substantiated. Studies of children
in foster care show that approxi-
mately 55% of these children dis-
play a wide range of developmental,
mental health, and behavioral
problems.6 The attachment interrup-
tion resulting from removal from the
primary caregivers may add to the
E-mail: childlawpractice @ staff.abanet.org

effects of maltreatment.'
A majority of child welfare
cases involve families affected by
substance abuse.8 These families
have unique issues that have been
insufficiently addressed in the tradi-
tional court process. Historically,
most dependency courts tended to
be adult-centered and punitive, op-
erating under a theoretical criminal
court framework. Until recently, de-
pendency case service plans offered
to families with substance abuse is-
sues focused on the needs of the
parents, with few services offered to
children under the age of three.'
Additionally, most jurisdictions
lacked a mechanism to determine
whether young children in the af-
fected families met the eligibility
criteria for early childhood interven-
tion services, even though young
(Continued on page 6)
What's Inside:
American Indian Children
in Foster Care
Pew Commission Progress
ABA Policy Prohibits
Discrimination in Foster
Care Placements
* Internet: http://www.childlawpractice.org

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