mother and child

Child Protective Services and Drug Abuse: What You Need to Know


Sober Recovery Expert Author

mother and child

Your relationship with drugs is probably full of its own nuances. Perhaps you only use drugs recreationally once or twice a year. Or maybe just on the weekends. Or perhaps you use substances, like alcohol, every day, but you still feel like you are a good parent to your children. In the worst case scenarios, you might know somewhere inside of you that your relationship with drugs and alcohol is getting in the way of you being the best parent you could be. So when do the authorities intervene? When do you have to worry that you might lose your children because of your alcohol or drug abuse?

When is too much too much?

When do you have to worry that you might lose your children because of your alcohol or drug abuse?

Recreational Use

It’s first important to note that many laws regarding drugs, alcohol, and even Child Protective Services (CPS) policies vary by state. Let us keep in mind that some states, like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, have made marijuana recreationally legal. In such states, the issue of CPS is still often murky in the case of parents that use marijuana because these laws are still so new. Generally speaking, however, authorities and/or a judge can use parental drug abuse as a qualifier for child abuse. Because parental drug abuse can cause child neglect and endangerment, it is not looked on lightly by authorities.

Typically speaking, CPS makes it their goal to only remove children from a home when it is needed for their protection. However, a lot of what happens comes down to the individual case workers, judges, and attorneys. Many authority figures wouldn’t remove a child from a home where a parent was found to have used marijuana if the child did not appear to be in any danger, but the same authority figures would likely look at serious drug use more harshly. While marijuana-using parents shouldn’t feel they have a free pass, they can know that in this current cultural climate where marijuana legalization is underway in so much of the U.S., they will likely not be viewed in the eyes of the law the same as meth or heroin abusers, for instance.

The question any CPS worker will be asking him or herself is if the child is unsafe. Even in the case of fully state legal marijuana, parents are expected to keep the plant and the smoke completely out of the vicinity of the child and away from the child’s access. This means that parents are not only responsible for keeping marijuana in a different area than the child, but they’re also responsible for locking it up or otherwise making sure the child cannot ever reach it, as well. It’s rare, but children have been removed from homes that have failed to do this because a case worker has deemed the situation unsafe for the child.

Child Protective Laws Against Drug Abuse

As for all other illegal substances used in the home, the short answer is yes. Yes, a case worker could justify removing your children, generally speaking. They might not do it in the case of a person who was found to have used one drug on one occasion, but they could. And in the case of drug addiction, please let the stability of your home for your children be another motivator to finally get clean. If you can be the best you can be for your children, you will be the parent who should raise them.

If you or someone you know is seeking help from addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 800-772-8219 to speak to a treatment specialist.

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