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Proposal: Expand Child Abuse Reporting to Include Mother's Alcohol Use

Sleepy Baby

Women who use legal drugs such as alcohol during pregnancy could be reported for possible child abuse under proposed legislation state lawmakers may be considering in January.   

Currently, mandatory reporters of child abuse must speak up if it appears an infant is born with exposure to illegal drugs. 

However, mandatory reporting does not kick in if the baby is showing signs of withdrawal from other substances.

“An infant who is jittery due to alcohol exposure or a legal substance such as a  prescribed drug like methadone or oxycodone,  those infants would currently not necessarily  brought to the attention of the DHS,” said Janee Harvey, Child Welfare and Community Services Bureau Chief at the Iowa Department of Human Services. 

Harvey says such children have already been negatively affected and the change would enable the DHS to make recommendations for treatment and care before any abuse has happened.   

“What we would like is more uniformity in the mandatory reporting training so health care providers are bringing these cases to DHS attention,” Harvey said.

The proposal is part of a package of changes under consideration by the Iowa Drug Endangered Children Workgroup.  

The group is also considering a change in Iowa law  to trigger a child abuse investigation for homes where cocaine, heroin, or opioids are present.  

Current law covers only the use, sale, or manufacture of methamphetamines.