Foster Care

Required Drug Testing for Foster Parents


Required Drug Testing for Foster Parents

A few weeks ago, I happened to see a news interview with the grandmother of a 10-month-old girl who perished after she was left in the car by her foster father.  The foster dad smoked weed and watched ‘Game of Thrones’ while the little girl was baked alive in the car.  It was a child crying on the show that reminded the foster dad that he had left the baby in his car.  During the grandmother’s interview, she expressed her shock, outrage, and grief over the situation. As awful and senseless as this situation is, something the grandmother said stuck out more than anything else about the story: she thought that foster parents received drug testing. 

It feels like the summer of 2014 has seen an epidemic of children dying as a result of accidentally being left in hot vehicles. When I first saw this story reported I was a little annoyed by the the headlines that read ’10-month-old dies after being left in car by Foster Parent’ (or something to that effect) because I didn’t see why it mattered that it was a foster parent that did this. It can happen to pretty much anybody. My annoyance quickly morphed into outrage when the fact that illegal drugs were involved surfaced. Then the grandmother made this statement: she thought that foster parents received drug testing. 

I’ve been a licensed foster parent since 2011. I’ve fostered kids in two different states. I’ve never had to submit to a drug test. I’ve had to get a physical. I’ve had to be screened for tuberculosis. My finger prints have been sent to the FBI. I’ve had to do a mound of paperwork asking about my family’s lifestyle and my personal background. I’ve never had a drug test. My outlets were checked for safety covers. I had to draw a floor plan of my house to be posted where the children could see. They checked my dogs’ vaccination records. I was never drug tested. My home had to comply with dozens of safety standards. I was scrutinized in many other ways. No drug test. Ever. 

I never thought it odd that foster parents weren’t drug tested. We answer questions about substance use/abuse and any related criminal charges we may have and a background check is run. That’s it. I didn’t think anything was wrong or missing from our approval process, but then I hear this woman who just lost her grandchild saying that she thought foster parents received drug testing. She said it in the same way that I’ve heard many people state myths about the foster care system as fact.

After doing a little research, I’ve determined that drug testing isn’t required at all in the 50 U.S. States, District of Columbia, or any U.S. Territory (this determination was made by reading literature put out by the U.S. government’s Child Welfare Information Gateway, I actually hope I’m wrong).

There are a lot of reasons for this, I’m sure. The different agencies that comprise our local, state, and federal child welfare system are absolutely bogged down. Agencies are short staffed. Workers have large case loads. There’s a ton of paperwork. Entire days are monopolized by court visits. Any time a new policy is made, the agencies have to scramble to comply.

Adding a requirement for all foster parents to submit to random drug testing is great in theory, but I imagine it would be a difficult thing to actually do and to make sure that everyone is in compliance. I’m just a foster parent and thinking about how it would all work makes my head swim.


Foster Care is supposed to be a safe haven for children. Many of the children in Foster Care come from dysfunctional homes where substance use/abuse is a large factor in that dysfunction. What sense does it make to take a child out of a home because his or her caregivers use drugs and place them in a home where the foster parents are using drugs? Should it really be acceptable to care for someone else’s children (or your own) while you’re intoxicated?

We could certainly debate about the use of alcohol (or marijuana where it’s legal) by foster parents in the home. I think that a discussion about marijuana should happen in the states where its use has been legalized. But what about other drugs like cocaine? What about prescription drug abuse?

Survey questions aren’t enough. People can lie. Background checks aren’t enough. Not everyone gets caught and charged for using drugs. Foster parents should submit to mandatory, random drug testing.  

I’m not saying we treat foster parents like criminals. I’m not saying that we add one more ineffective hoop for foster families to jump through. I’m not for adding another layer of policies to a system that is already overloaded.

I’m saying that we need to do whatever we can to keep children safe while they’re in foster care because they deserve to actually be safe while they’re in foster care.

6 thoughts on “Required Drug Testing for Foster Parents”

  1. I was the care giver for my grandchildren .one day the worker calles me and says u need to take a hair analyses in one hour .and u have to pay for it .i told her i dont use drugs and cant afford it. She said ok that means u refused . i told her if she wants it then ocs has to pay for the test .she said they cant . and she removed the kids from my home i was heart broken . they are still in foster care 6 months later ..the children were fine here taken care of . how do i get them back?


  2. The story above (or maybe it will show up below, not sure how comment chains work here) says it all. Whether the foster parents are or are not using some type of substance, Drug testing is an ineffective way of weeding out good from bad foster parents. There are plenty of GOOD birth and foster parents who smoke weed in a knowing and responsible manner, not around the kids, etc. But smoking on a Friday night away from the kids will show up on a drug test a week later and boom your fosters are gone? That doesn’t seem right to me. Or, as with the comment here, you don’t submit to the test and suddenly that means youre an addict? Likewise, there are plenty of parents who DON’T use drugs that are just awful. leave drug testing for reasonable suspicion. It’s senseless to waste foster families’ money on it otherwise.


    1. Everyone should be drug tested, “no excuses”. And no one should be smoking pot or anything else for that matter. Set an example, grow up. We are here to take care of these children. If the child fell or hurt themselves you would have to drive. Think about that.What example are we setting for these children?


  3. I’m not sure how anyone forgets a child in a car but I dont believe for a second that marijuana caused him to leave the child in the car. He also had mental issues that he was taking prescription medication for (including psychotropic drugs). Prescription drugs can be just as dangers as street drugs. Also, his partner was in the home with him. How did this person also not realize they were missing a child?
    The problem with urine drug tests is that they dont prove anything unless done on the spot. Most of your hard core drugs are out of your system in 12 hours making it very easy for a crack head to pass a drug test. Only marijuana can stay in your system up 30 days.
    A hair test would be the only way to go and they would need to test for all prescription drugs & alcohol (since alchohol is the true gateway drug that leads to other drug abuse).


  4. Foster parents should get tested for drugs and alcohol my sister is the foster parent oh my three kids she is an alcoholic smokes marijuana all day long she drinks every day after work till she’s drunk how is that a better place for my kids to be I was clean for a year and a half and I fell off once one time and my rights were stripped try to get into Inpatient Rehab and was unable 2 get approved to go because I was cleaning I was no longer ready for any drugs I guess you have to be dirty to go to rehab the Court held that against me


  5. I think all who in is involved in a child life, parents of the child foster parents, social worker ,other worker but especially foster parents because they are with them on the daily and said to be better then the parents so they say.


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