The Toxicology Resource Guide was designed as a resource to support caseworkers not only during trainings, but also in the field. It is imperative that child welfare caseworkers have the tools they need to meet the needs of the families they serve. Since substance use is such a prevalent factor in child maltreatment, a resource like the Toxicology Resource Guide can be a benefit not only for caseworkers but also for the caregivers and children with whom they interact.

Critical thinking is always . . . well, critical.

Toxicology tests are the primary monitoring tool for departmental workers seeking to support the sobriety of their clients, and it is not uncommon for a child welfare department to require a substance use evaluation, and subsequently, cessation from all substances in a treatment plan.

The toxicology test results, however, are often viewed through a binary lens–either positive or negative. Unfortunately, this leads workers, and sometimes even the individuals being tested, to use terms such as “clean” or “dirty” to describe the results. Describing test results as “dirty” clearly carries a negative connotation, and using this kind of language is antithetical to the strengths-based practices that Colorado Department of Human Services is committed to.  

Instead, caseworkers can use the information contained in the Toxicology Resource Guide to better understand the data that they receive from testing agencies and move beyond the oversimplified and potentially harmful descriptors of “clean” and “dirty”. The guide contains information about types of toxicology tests, neonatal testing and testing children and adults. It breaks down the signs of substance use and misuse by substance–but it also acknowledges that toxicology test results don’t give us the whole picture.

Using substances in and of itself is not necessarily a child welfare concern. This is why it’s so important for caseworkers to put their critical thinking skills to the test! For example, The Colorado Family Safety Assessment tool enables caseworkers to perform a complete assessment to see what’s working and what’s not in each unique household.

Another Tool in the Toolbox

Just like a drug test is just one piece of the puzzle, the Toxicology Resource Guide is just one tool in a caseworker’s toolbox–but it’s an important tool for understanding the needs of families who may be using substances. A specialized tool like the Toxicology Resource Guide can empower Colorado child welfare caseworkers to interpret drug test results knowledgably and thoughtfully and, as a result, can positively affect the caregivers and children they serve. 

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