Poison, Problem, and Perspective: Revisited

In January 2007, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families (AACF) released Poison Problem and Perspective: The Impact of Methamphetamine on the Arkansas Child Welfare System. It was AACF’s first assessment of substance abuse in families suspected of child maltreatment in Arkansas. This is a follow-up to that report and will provide updates on data presented in the original report and new information now available as a result of new policies implemented by the Arkansas Department of Human Services Division of Children and Family Services (DCFS). It will also provide new information and summarize promising new developments in capturing substance abuse trends and its relationship to child welfare. This report will conclude with specific recommendations for continued improvements in the identification, engagement and treatment for families when substance abuse contributes to their involvement in child maltreatment.

Data in the original report included the type of illicit drug used by mothers of newborns that were identified under the recently established Garrett’s Law, the frequency of children being placed in foster care due to drug abuse, and the number of admissions to public funded drug treatment programs by “drug of choice”. These data elements were used to illustrate the potential impact that substance abuse, particularly methamphetamine abuse, was having on Arkansas’s child welfare system. The initial report also highlighted efforts of DCFS to verify the impact of substance abuse. In addition, the report made specific recommendations to improve documentation of substance abuse and to provide appropriate treatment to these parents and children.

It is important to acknowledge the valuable feedback that has been provided by all those working to improve Arkansas’s child welfare system that either read the first report or participated in conference presentations and public forums to discuss the original findings during this past year. It is very evident that substance abuse has a significant impact on Arkansas’s child welfare system and that more must be done. This new report attempts to incorporate the comments, clarifying questions and new perspectives this feedback provided. The hope is that our efforts will continue those discussions and result in children being reunited with their families by taking concrete actions that document the impact of substance abuse, improve assessments, and expand access to high quality treatment for the families torn apart by substance abuse in Arkansas.