New Law Requires Substance-Exposed Newborns to be Reported

BALTIMORE—Effective Oct. 1, a new law pertaining to the reporting of substance-exposed newborns goes into effect in Maryland. The Department of Human Resources developed and proposed this legislation to reflect requirements in the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), that requires health care practitioners involved in the delivery or care of substance-exposed newborns to notify a local department of social services when there is a substance-exposed newborn. It will also create an opportunity to identify parents in need of treatment or other services and to develop a plan for the newborn as well as any other children in the home.

"Early identification of these newborns is a critical part of providing effective services for these families," said Ted Dallas, secretary of the Maryland Department of Human Resources. "This new law will help ensure the department can respond promptly and connect families with services and substance abuse treatment so that newborns can remain safely at home."

The new law requires health care practitioners to make an oral report to a local department as soon as possible after becoming aware that a newborn has been affected by prenatal exposure to controlled drugs or shows signs of a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder and to make a written report not more than 48 hours later. The statute and new regulations specify the kind of information to be included in a report and the exclusions to the reporting requirement.

A report of the birth of the substance-exposed newborn will not be considered a referral for investigation of suspected child abuse or neglect and does not create a presumption that a child has been or will be abused or neglected; nor will it require a referral for prosecution for any illegal action. Instead, the report will trigger an assessment of the safety of and risk to the newborn and, as needed, the development of a plan of safe care and services for the newborn and family.

The law also requires local department of social services staff to respond to a hospital within 48 hours of the report, to consult with health care practitioners and social workers, to see the newborn and to talk with the mother.

"The department would like to thank the Maryland chapters of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA) for their collaboration and support as we prepare to implement this important change in state law," Dallas said.

Source: Maryland Department of Human Resources

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