It’s a fact. Drug abuse is on the rise! Statistics released by the Ohio Department of Health are alarming. A recent news article stated that “Heroin and other opiates contributed to 54.4 percent of all unintentional overdose deaths in 2009.” Drug abuse is an issue that can affect an entire family, especially innocent children. We know that when parents turn to drugs it leaves their children vulnerable to abuse or neglect. That’s why Marion County Children Services sees the need for a more proactive approach to drug screening.
In 2007, the agency decided to utilize oral swab drug screens so that caseworkers can obtain an on-the-spot drug screen. This method led to increased completion of drug screens which ultimately results in better assessments of child safety.
Marion County Children Services partnered with Forensic Fluids out of Kalamazoo, Mi. for a more cost effective process and continues to utilize their services today. The oral drug screens currently utilize the most advanced, court-approved technology available. There are no privacy issues that are common with urine or blood that can allow “cheaters” to beat the test. Considering the changing environment of drug use, Forensic Fluids provides testing for any drug that we define.
By law, Marion County Children Services is not required to provide a drug screening process but rather rely on observation when completing home visits and family reports. Knowing that observation and family reports alone do not provide a true account of a child’s day-to-day environment, the agency feels strongly that the drug screening process is imperative for the assessment of child safety. This more objective approach has indicated positive results in 42% of the drug screens completed in 2010. Understanding the needs of our community and the current rise in drug abuse-related crimes, it is a necessary expense to ensure the safety of Marion County children.
Marion County is taking a strong stand on drug concerns. The agency now has the ability to drug screen adults and children as well as swab their hands and/or household surfaces to detect the presence of illegal drugs. Under Ohio law, a parent using illegal drugs in and of itself does not constitute abuse or neglect and it is the responsibility of the agency to prove with clear and convincing evidence that a child has been abused or neglected as a result of parental drug use. This becomes especially difficult with non-verbal children as the caseworker cannot interview the child to determine the amount of knowledge and/or exposure to parental drug use. The positive drug screens of children, their hands and/or household surfaces have provided Marion County Children Services with the necessary information to prove that a child has been or is at risk of future abuse or neglect.
Parental drug use will continue to be a focus for Marion County Children Services as it continues its mission to ensure child safety. With the current drug screening process and
working jointly with community partners to better serve those suffering from drug addiction, we can collectively protect children.
Note: To confidentially report suspected child abuse or neglect, call 740-389-SAFE or visit www.marionkids.com.
Article written by: Jacqueline Ringer, Executive Director, MCCS