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1950 Newborns, Children, and Youth Who Are Exposed to Drugs or Alcohol

1951 Children and Adolescents Who Smoke Marijuana, Use Other Drugs, or Drink Alcohol

1951.1 Youth Who Are Not in DFPS Conservatorship and Are Not Unemancipated

CPS June 2010

Unless legally married or otherwise legally emancipated, a youth is not considered an adult until the age of 18, even if the youth is a parent.

Guiding Principle

Court orders requiring drug testing supersede the guiding principle below.

When a caseworker becomes aware that a child or adolescent is smoking marijuana, using drugs, or drinking alcohol, the caseworker treats the situation as a medical concern that must be addressed by the parent, just as any other medical concern must be.

Treating the situation as a medical concern assumes that a child using drugs is in need of protection. The intent is to:

  •  rule out any medical complications associated with drug exposure; and

  •  give the parent an opportunity to take ownership for the issues that may have led the child to use and help the child obtain any necessary treatment.

The caseworker does not administer drug tests to the child. If the allegation involves a child age 10 or older as an alleged perpetrator, the caseworker obtains written consent from the parent to send the child to a drug testing laboratory.

If the parent refuses to give written consent for the testing, the caseworker discusses with his or her supervisor the possibility of seeking legal intervention.

Parent Obtains Testing and Treatment for the Youth

The caseworker seeks to empower and encourage the parent to take responsibility to obtain testing, screening, assessment, or treatment for the child or adolescent, if it appears necessary.

Necessity is based on credible evidence that the youth might be using drugs or drinking alcohol; for example, a parent stating that a child or youth has been exposed to drugs or alcohol. As appropriate, the worker assists the parent in accessing substance abuse services through a medical clinic or provider, such as a primary care physician, health clinic, or emergency room.

If the medical provider recommends treatment, the caseworker assists the parent in accessing services in the community. Or, the worker refers the parent and child to a provider of outreach, screening, assessment, and referral (OSAR) services. The youth must be age 13 or older to be referred to OSAR. See 1912 Referring Clients to DSHS-Funded Substance Abuse Treatment.

The parent has the right to purchase over-the-counter drug tests as an initial step in arranging for the youth to be seen by a medical provider or OSAR.

1951.2 Children and Adolescents in DFPS Conservatorship

CPS June 2010

Guiding Principle

Due to the physical and psychological harm drug use may cause a child or youth, CPS practice is to take a medical approach when addressing the issue.

If a caseworker or medical consenter suspects that a child or youth may be using drugs, the caseworker or medical consenter may have the child tested only by a medical provider.

The caseworker and medical consenter:

  •  must not administer drug tests to the youth; and

  •  must not give permission for the youth to be tested initially by any entity that is not a medical provider.


If a youth is under the supervision of Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) or the county juvenile probation department, the youth can be tested for drugs by the juvenile system.


To have a youth tested by a medical provider, the caseworker the medical consenter, makes an appointment with the youth's health care provider or primary care physician (PCP), just as he or she would if the youth were sick.

As in any medical emergency situation, if the youth appears to require immediate medical care, the youth must be taken to an emergency care facility. The caseworker or medical consenter then informs the health care provider or the PCP about the concern for the youth's possible use or abuse of drugs or alcohol. The health care provider or PCP may refer the youth to a substance abuse professional.

At the time the youth is suspected to be using or abusing drugs or alcohol, the caseworker:

  •  collaborates with the regional DFPS substance abuse specialist and the DFPS well-being specialist to coordinate the most appropriate services for the youth's individual needs;

  •  Follow the recommendation of qualified professionals in addressing the youth's substance abuse issues, the caseworker incorporates the recommendations into the child's plan of service and follow the treatment recommendations of the doctor or qualified professional, which may include residential treatment and rehabilitation services. When appropriate and available, the youth's treatment services must be located within the youth's community.

1951.3 Youth in Extended Care or Return to Care

CPS June 2010

Youth who are 18 years of age or older and are receiving extended care or return-to-care services are considered young adults. Young adults are subject to the drug testing policy for adults. While in a DFPS placement, the young adult must abide by the voluntary agreement that he or she signed to remain in conservatorship.

If it is suspected that a young adult is abusing substances, the caseworker:

  •  makes the appropriate referrals to services to assess whether substance abuse treatment is needed; and

  •  encourages the young adult to seek services.

1952 Newborns Exposed to Drugs or Alcohol

1952.1 Safety Plan for a Substance-Exposed Newborn

CPS June 2010

An allegation that a newborn has been exposed to drugs or alcohol could result in DFPS filing legal paperwork to be named the newborn's temporary managing conservator.

The tasks the caseworker must accomplish in an open case are explained in the table below:

Stage of the Case

Task the Caseworker Completes


Complete a risk assessment within 30 days of the birth of the newborn.

FBSS Home Visit

See 3000 Family-Based Safety Services to determine the frequency of home visits.

Family Service Plan (FBSS or CVS)

For the timelines within which to complete or update a family service plan, see:

3000 Family-Based Safety Services; and 

6000 Substitute-Care Services.

During a home visit

Provide the parent with available information about:

  •  infant care and development,

  •  safe sleep precautions,

  •  SIDS reduction, and

  •  substance abuse

  •  parenting

  •  Early Childhood Intervention (ECI) program of Texas Health & Human Services (HHS).

At any stage that is appropriate

Schedule a Family Team Meeting or a Family Group Conference.


1121 Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM)

2440 Family Team Meetings

6251 Overview of Permanency Planning Meetings

Appendix 1100-1: Roles and Responsibilities of Family Group Decision-Making (FGDM) Staff

If services beyond the investigation are provided

Consider referring the mother (or the mother and newborn) to an inpatient substance abuse program.

Specify whether participation is voluntary or is based on CPS holding an order of Temporary Managing Conservatorship.

Note the referral in the family's service plan.

Consider case for Family Drug Treatment Court if available in your region. See Appendix 1961: Family Drug Treatment Courts (FDTCs) for more information.


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