EVIDENTIARY ISSUES SURROUNDING THE USE OF DRUG TEST RESULTS IN CHILD WELFARE CASES AND THE USE OF DRUG TEST IN DEVELOPING TREATMENT PLANS

The purpose of Chapter 7 of the Children’s Code Section 63-7-10 is to insure that any intervention by the state into family life on behalf of children be guided by law, by strong philosophical underpinnings and by sound professional standards for practice. Child welfare services MUST be based on these principles. It is the policy of South Carolina to reunite the child with his family in a timely manner. The children’s code should be liberally construed to the end that families whose unity or well-being is threatened shall be assisted and protected and restored if possible. It is a balancing act that more often than not is not balanced at all. The recent use and misuse of hair follicle drug screens in my opinion is tipping the scales off balance resulting in children being separated from their parents far longer than need be. How can SCDSS use the hair follicle drug screen and all drug screens for that matter as an effective tool in meeting the goals set forth in section 63-7-10? The answer is for all the players in child welfare cases to be informed, educated and trained as to what the most effective purpose drug screens can serve in developing a parent’s individualized treatment plan and how drug screens can serve as an evidentiary tool in court.
With that being said, the Defendant parents in child welfare cases are increasingly being subjected to taking hair follicle drug screens prior to any allegations of drug use being substantiated by DSS. The mere fact that anyone can anonymously call the DSS intake line and make a report of alleged drug use will trigger a DSS investigative worker to make contact with that family within 72 hours. The worker is now trained to request that parent to submit to a hair follicle drug screen despite no visible evidence of drug use or neglect within the home. DSS is charged under the code to do the least intrusive measure when intervening in a family’s life, however, the practice of making parents submit to a hair follicle drug screens based on an allegation of drug use along with the veiled threat that if they do not comply, their child could be taken away.