News & Events

Change in DCF Screening Policy Related to Substance Exposed Newborns


TO: Mandated Reporters, Community Partners and Other Stakeholders
RE: Change in DCF Screening Policy Related to Substance Exposed Newborns (SENs)
DATE: December 14, 2012
The Massachusetts Department of Children and Families (DCF) would like to inform you about a change in policy related to screening of reports involving Substance Exposed Newborns (SENs). This change is being implemented to better protect the vulnerable SEN population, while recognizing the need for medication assisted treatment during pregnancy for women who are dependent upon opioids or who have other medically diagnosed conditions requiring medication.
The change in DCF policy DOES NOT change the responsibility for mandated reporters to report a situation involving a SEN.
Summary of Policy Changes
Effective January 2, 2013, DCF may screen out a 51A report involving a Substance Exposed Newborn (SEN) if the only reported condition is maternal use of methadone, buprenorphine (Subutex), buprenorphine with naloxone (Suboxone) or another appropriately prescribed and used medication (such as psychotropic and narcotic prescription medications) as substance abuse or medical treatment resulting in a SEN, when:
  • the only substance affecting the newborn was one of the three (3) drugs described above or other appropriately prescribed and used medication;
  • DCF is able to verify with medical or other qualified providers that mother used the medication as part of substance abuse or medical treatment as authorized; and
  • there are no other concerns of child abuse and/or neglect as determined by any available information, including a review of DCF’s historical records.
 DCF will continue to screen in and complete a response to all other 51A reports involving a SEN.
The Department, in partnership with the DPH Bureau of Substance Abuse Services (BSAS), has established a communication protocol with substance abuse treatment providers for verifying a mother’s treatment historyand progress. Opioid treatment providers are being asked to work with mothers prior to delivery to obtain a
signed release allowing DCF to speak with providers during the screening process. As required by the updated policy, without appropriate treatment verification, a 51A report will be screened in.
DCF will also contact other medication prescribers during screening to verify that mother is using the medication appropriately, as prescribed and there are no other concerns regarding child abuse and/or neglect.
What does this mean for Mandated Reporters?
Mandated reporters should continue to report any situations involving a SEN to DCF. If possible, mandated
reporters should include in the 51A report: the name and contact information for the mother’s medicationassisted treatment provider and the prescriber(s) of other medications that may appear in the report of a urine or meconium screen.
For Further Information Please contact Kim Bishop-Stevens, DCF Substance Abuse Manager, at 617-748-2049.