Toxicology results can be complicated to understand. The results may or may not tell us whether the environment is safe for the children, who was exposed to a substance, or shed light on the strengths and protective capacities of caregivers and children. Even the decision to request a toxicology test is not be as straightforward as many may think–to say nothing of which test should be selected. Since research indicates that substance use is a factor in a majority of child welfare cases, caseworkers need to be prepared to work with parents, caregivers, pregnant people and youth as they navigate the complex issues surrounding substance use and child safety.

The Toxicology Resource Guide was developed by toxicology experts for Colorado child welfare professionals to provide a quick reference guide for understanding substances and possible effects, the types of toxicology tests and their use cases, and the application of application of toxicology testing in everyday practice. For these reasons, The Toxicology Resource Guide is featured as a resource in a number of Colorado Child Welfare Training System (CWTS) trainings that explore the intersection of substance use and child maltreatment.

Trainings Featuring the Toxicology Resource Guide

Marijuana, Children and Families and Building Safety when Parents Use Substances are two highly-recommended course for all caseworkers, especially those who work in family drug courts or otherwise have a primary focus on substance use and child maltreatment. Training participants are encouraged to bookmark the guide and use it in future casework to guide them as they interpret the results of UA tests. They can also draw from the guide’s information when synthesizing court reports to accurately represent an individual’s progress toward their treatment plan objectives and toward case closure.

Impacts and Implications of Prenatal Substance Exposure is another full-day CWTS training where the Toxicology Resource Guide is provided as a resource for caseworkers. This training explores toxicology testing in pregnant people leading up to the time they give birth and immediately after birth, along with testing of newborn children. As the name suggests, learners explore the impacts of prenatal substance exposure, using the guide as a reference. Learners explore a broad range of implications, from personal trauma to systemic bias.

The Toxicology Resource Guide is just one of many online resources discussed in the course, such as the CHoSEN Collaborative and its initiative to promote equity in substance use screening procedures, and the Tough as a Mother Campaign to support pregnant people and mothers in recovery. Resources such as these help remind us that testing is only one part of the puzzle when it comes to child welfare casework.

Explore the Toxicology Resource Guide on your own, and when you’re ready for a deeper dive, review the CWTS course offerings and register for an upcoming training.

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