NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Terminating Parental Rights Of Drug-Addicted Mothers

December 29, 1998

In most states now, if a child is born drug- or alcohol-exposed, the mother is ordered into drug treatment -- with the choice of shaking off her addiction or losing her parental rights.

  • Since 1985, more than 240 women in 35 states have been prosecuted for using illegal drugs or alcohol during pregnancy.
  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates that more than 1 million children are exposed to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy, and experts estimate that 124 babies are born every day to cocaine-addicted mothers.
  • Some 4 million American women become pregnant each year -- about 221,000 of whom consume illicit drugs.

Experts disagree over whether it is better to have children remain with substance-abusing parents, or to send the children to be cared for by relatives or foster care homes, while the mother is remanded for substance abuse treatment -- which can often take years.

While many drug-dependent parents abuse their children, some experts report that the probability that drug treatments will succeed is tremendously increased if mothers are allowed to keep their children.

Source: Cheryl Wetzstein, "States Are Getting Tough With Moms Addicted to Cocaine," Washington Times, December 29, 1998.


Browse more articles on Government Issues