GEORGETOWN, Del. - In 2015, there were 299 cases of investigated reports of infants being born with a substance addiction in Delaware, due to the drug use of their mothers. In response, a committee tasked with combating this trend, voted on Friday to add six conditions to the state protocol, in reference to automatic reporting to the Delaware Division of Family Services.
The joint committee on Substance Exposed Infants, an arm of the Child Protection Accountability Commission, is expected to vote on the altered protocol by this March, if not sooner.
"These infants are vulnerable," said Jennifer Donahue, the co-chair for the committee. "These infants deserve to be safe."
The six conditions would trigger an automatic reporting to the DDFS, and are as follows:
1 - Significant non-compliance with the care of the infant, such as through not visiting or participating in the care of the child.
2 - Substance use by the mother, while not in a treatment program.
3 - Illicit Drug use that impairs care-giving use.
4 - If the infant length of stay is beyond 30 days.
5 - If multiple drugs are being used at the same time, and are found in the blood.
6 - If the infant is facing medically unstable or complex medical care, accompanied by concern over the caregiver.
Donahue said that the new conditions would help out hospitals by clearly outlining which behaviors would trigger a report to the DDFS.
"This issue is a public health issue," she said. "And many different agencies are currently coming together to assist these infants... We hope to formalize that."
The committee formed in January 2015, as a result of a meeting between CPAC and the Child Death Commission, which investigates child deaths in Delaware.
The DFS found that there had been 448 reports of infants with either substances or alcohol in their systems at birth. There were 299 investigated reports of infants with substances in their system alone. The county breakdown was as follows:
- New Castle County: 110
- Kent County: 84
- Sussex County: 105
Bridget Buckaloo, who is the executive director of women's health at Beebe Healthcare, said the numbers were troubling.
"We can't close our eyes," she said. "We can't turn our head. It's here. And it's a reality. And they're going to be in our schools. This is going to be our future society. So what can we do as a village to take care of these kids."
The conditions were initially recommended by the Delaware Healthy Mothers Infant Consortium.