Substance use in and of itself is not child abuse or neglect. However, substance use is a risk factor for child maltreatment and child welfare involvement. In fact, substance use is the primary reason Child Protective Services (CPS) interacts with families in Texas. About 43 percent of child abuse and neglect investigations are initiated due to concerns about a caregiver’s substance use. For two-thirds of Texas children removed from their homes and placed in foster care, a parent’s or caregiver’s substance use was a primary reason for removal. Additionally, Texas faces a maternal mortality crisis, with overdose as the top reason new mothers are dying during pregnancy and up to one year after birth of a child.
This brief shows the connection between parental substance use and the short- and long-term consequences for maternal health and child well-being, particularly for families with children under age three. Effective preventive measures, increased access to substance use treatment programs, and appropriate recovery supports would not only help save mothers lives, but also improve parent and child well-being, keep more families together in safe homes, and reduce stress on Texas’ foster care system. The final section of this brief outlines concrete steps that the Legislature can take to support effective programs and strategies that enable parents and children to stay together in safe, healthy homes.