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Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse in Virginia

Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse in Virginia

Use of drugs by parents can lead to many lapses in parenting, in addition to outright abuse of children. The use or possession of drugs, in and of itself, however can lead to a finding of child abuse even without a showing of some overt harm to the child.

Because of concern about methamphetamine, including the dangers associated with its manufacture, the General Assembly enacted Virginia Code Section 18.2-248.02. This section provides as follows:

"Any person 18 years of age or older who maintains a custodial relationship over a child under the age of 18, including but not limited to a parent, step-parent, grandparent, step-grandparent, or who stands in loco parentis with respect to such child, and who knowingly allows that child to be present in the same dwelling, apartment as defined by Sec. 55-79.2, unit of a hotel as defined in Sec. 35.1-1, garage, shed, or vehicle during the manufacture or attempted manufacture of methamphetamine as prohibited by subsection C1 of Sec. 18.2-248 is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not less than 10 nor more than 40 years. This penalty shall be in addition to and served consecutively with any other sentence."

A reason to suspect child abuse or neglect pursuant to Virginia Code Section 1509 is the child's exposure to drugs via the mother prior to birth. This Code section provides:

" For purposes of subsection A, "reason to suspect that a child is abused or neglected" shall include (i) a finding made by an attending physician within seven days of a child's birth that the results of a blood or urine test conducted within 48 hours of the birth of the child indicate the presence of a controlled substance not prescribed for the mother by a physician; (ii) a finding by an attending physician made within 48 hours of a child's birth that the child was born dependent on a controlled substance which was not prescribed by a physician for the mother and has demonstrated withdrawal symptoms; (iii) a diagnosis by an attending physician made within seven days of a child's birth that the child has an illness, disease or condition which, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, is attributable to in utero exposure to a controlled substance which was not prescribed by a physician for the mother or the child; or (iv) a diagnosis by an attending physician made within seven days of a child's birth that the child has fetal alcohol syndrome attributable to in utero exposure to alcohol. When "reason to suspect" is based upon this subsection, such fact shall be included in the report along with the facts relied upon by the person making the report."

Virginia Code Section 16.1-241.3 gives the power in such circumstances for the emergency removal of the child from the parent and the entry of a protective order against the parent.

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