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December 19, 2023

Implementing Trauma-Informed Drug-Testing Protocols in Child Welfare and Family Court Programs: A Technical Assistance Brief

This technical assistance brief underscores the importance of recognizing the prevalence of trauma, especially among marginalized communities involved in the justice system. The integration of trauma-informed practices in drug testing ranging from noninvasive testing methods to considerate language and supportive environments—is crucial in reshaping how justice-involved individuals are treated. The transition to Trauma-Informed Drug Testing in Child Welfare and Family Court Programs is a crucial step toward a more humane, effective, and just society. This article provides a road map for agencies and programs to integrate trauma-informed drug-testing procedures.

Individuals with a substance use disorder and those involved in the justice system, particularly within child welfare and family court systems, are at a heightened risk of experiencing trauma. To address this issue, numerous programs and agencies have adopted trauma-informed practices, considering language, environments, and treatment services. However, the re-traumatizing potential of traditional drug-testing procedures has received limited attention. Many child welfare and family court systems employ intrusive human-observed urine collection, which can be unsafe, shaming, and invasive for individuals with trauma histories. This policy primer advocates for trauma-informed approaches to drug testing, emphasizing the preservation of dignity and worth while ensuring the integrity of toxicology data. By combining trauma-informed principles with best practices in drug testing, a more compassionate and supportive environment can be created within child welfare and family court systems, ultimately leading to improved outcomes for individuals and families affected by substance use disorders. The article aligns the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s six trauma-informed principles with the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment Best Practices for Drug Testing in Child Welfare, offering a road map for agencies and programs to integrate trauma-informed drug-testing procedures and enhance support and empathy for all involved parties.

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