To further strengthen families impacted by perinatal substance use in Colorado, the Prenatal Substance Use and Improving Family Health study examined data at the intersection of health, public assistance, and child welfare. This research offers unique insights into how these systems can coordinate efforts to strengthen families, prevent family separation, and decrease foster care placement. Findings show several factors associated with an increased risk of infant removal from their family by child welfare due to prenatal substance use, including:

  • less than adequate prenatal care,
  • lower household income,
  • low participation in WIC, and
  • greater medical fragility of the newborn. 

For infants removed from the home, the rate of placement with relatives while in foster care decreased by 15% (2016-2019). This is a concern as placing children with relatives has been shown to promote healthy child development. 

Study findings inform prenatal opportunities for wrapping services around families impacted by prenatal substance use, beginning in pregnancy and using Plans of Safe Care, with the long-term goal of proactively preventing child welfare involvement and setting families who are involved in child welfare on a trajectory of safety and well-being.

The statewide perinatal substance use data linkage study was made possible by SB19-228 and the Linked Information Network of Colorado (LINC), which securely connects data across multiple systems. The study was designed in partnership with the Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention, Illuminate Colorado, the Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee, and experts from state agencies, hospitals, non-profits, and the research community. Learn more about the project and access the report here. 

For more information, contact Dr. Elysia Clemens at

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