Prenatal Substance Use Policies and Infant Maltreatment Reports

State punitive policies criminalize prenatal substance use or define it as child maltreatment, sometimes leading to child welfare system involvement soon after childbirth. However, supportive prenatal policies provide pregnant women with priority access to substance use disorder treatment programs, improving well-being for both mothers and infants. In a new Health Affairs study, Dr. Angelica Meinhofer, assistant professor of population health sciences at Weill Cornell Medicine, and colleagues examined the frequency of infant maltreatment reports from 2004 to 2018. They found a 19 percent increase in these reports after the adoption of punitive policies. Further, there was a 38.4 percent increase in reports in which the mother was the alleged perpetrator. Meanwhile, there was no change in infant maltreatment reports after the adoption of supportive prenatal policies. The researchers suggest that policy makers design more interventions to emphasize support services.

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