When parents use substances, determining the safety of a child isn’t as simple as reading the results of a drug test because drug testing itself is rarely diagnostic when interpreted alone. The results of drug tests are best interpreted in conjunction with other strengths and risk factors. Caseworkers are no strangers to crucial conversations and the Toxicology Resource Guide may make those discussions more nuanced.

Anne Auld, the director of education for Illuminate Colorado, recently sat down with Becky Tolpa, the supervisor of child protection in Larimer County, to discuss the practical uses of the toxicology guide for supervisors as well as a caseworker in the field. Both Auld and Tolpa were able to offer some keen insights into the usefulness of this resource, having been instrumental in the creation of the guide in 2019.

View the video below to watch the full interview below.

Talking Toxicology 

To make this process easier, the online searchable Toxicology Resource Guide, along with eBook available for download at COtoxguide.org was created to support Colorado child welfare professionals in understanding substances, possible effects and the utility and application of toxicology testing to enhance practice. The resources were developed by Illuminate Colorado through a collaborative process with multiple contributors and by the Colorado Department of Human Services Office of Children, Youth, & Families Division of Child Welfare.

The Importance of Critical Thinking

In the field, issues are often complicated and a simple toxicology chart doesn’t always help as much as it should. The critical thinking components of the guide help to navigate the more complex situations that many caseworkers come across in their day to day job.

One of the best parts of the guide, Tolpa noted, is that it includes critical thinking sections that apply directly to a caseworker’s job. If a toddler is in the home, what considerations need to be had?  What about for a teenager?

The guide helps caseworkers think through these important areas, as well as next steps once test results come back.

“We want to empower people to come up with creative questions and think through every scenario when they’re out in the field and be able to think on their feet. And that’s a really difficult thing to do…when you have a guide like this, it gives you a jumping off point,” said Tolpa.

Engaging Families 

Planning is another important area where the guide can be helpful. Determining how to best help families is crucial, and it’s important to help families come up with a plan that keeps their kids safe. The guide can help in developing a plan for families in a way that works better for them.

The guide also helps to engage families better. Tolpa firmly believes that the more you know, the more you are able to help families. “[The guide] gives us the education to go out and have a great conversation with a family member and be transparent about our worries, and hear what they have to say in return.”

Visit COtoxguide.org to use the Toxicology Resource Guide in your work today.

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