Journal Issue: Drug-Exposed Infants Volume 1 Number 1 Spring 1991
In 1989 and 1990 Minnesota passed comprehensive legislation in response to the problem of drug-exposed infants. The legislators specifically rejected calls for criminal sanctions or for the classification of drug use during pregnancy as child abuse. Instead, the Minnesota legislation emphasized early identification and provision of services through legislation requiring
- Mandatory reporting to a welfare agency (typically county social services) of pregnant women who use specified illegal drugs and of newborns, or their mothers, who show drug dependency or positive drug test results;
- Investigation and assessment of a pregnant woman's drug treatment and other needs by multidisciplinary teams;
- Provision of prenatal care and drug treatment services to the pregnant woman;
- The option of civil commitment of the pregnant woman to treatment programs if she refuses to accept these services voluntarily;
- Consideration of all drug-exposed infants as neglected and in need of services; and
- Provision of drug treatment and social services to families of drug-exposed infants.
We believe that this legislation is a thoughtful attempt to provide both for the health of mothers and the well-being of children born to mothers using illegal drugs. The best hope for a long-term solution to critical problem of drug-exposed infants and their families is an integrated, multidisciplinary approach, combining prevention, education, prenatal care, and the provision of coordinated social services, with civil court intervention into the family only as a last resort. Prosecuting mothers for their illegal drug use is not the answer to the problem we face. Developing the educational and community resources necessary to combat the problem is. We believe that the Minnesota approach can serve as a model for other states.