At the Drug Policy Alliance we are committed to ending the drug war’s assault on families.
One out of every 14 children in this country has had a parent imprisoned. This is in large part due to the mass incarceration of people convicted of drug law violations. Even parents who avoid criminal punishment for drug use risk losing custody of their children. Almost 31% of all children placed in foster care in 2012 were removed from their homes because of “parental alcohol or drug use.” In several states that percentage surpassed 60%.
Current practices in the child welfare and family court systems make many families feel frightened and ashamed rather than supported. Punitive approaches have been shown to disproportionately impact low-income families and communities of color.
“Existing and proposed 'child welfare' policies are disingenuous, oxymoronic and unjust when they hinge on bias against people who use drugs. Those of us who genuinely care about child welfare must start by openly acknowledging and boldly asserting the fact that using drugs and caring for a family are not mutually exclusive.” - Amanda Bent, (Filter, March 21, 2019)
Despite no evidence of abuse or neglect of her children, Elizabeth Brico’s parental rights were terminated in 2020. She had previously been in treatment for an opioid use disorder and was in remission at the time of the trial. Her previous drug use, along with a groundless complaint by her in-laws, led to the loss of custody of her two young daughters — the beginning of a nightmare from which she has not yet emerged. The stigma and bias against parents who use drugs in the child welfare system unnecessarily ripped her family apart.
Learn more about how the drug war breaks up families at UprootingTheDrugWar.org.
DPA believes that effective drug policy reform must include reform of child welfare policy and practice. We advocate for humane policies that protect the health, safety and rights of children and families. We fight against policies and practices that contribute to the criminalization of people based on their race, class and gender identities.
DPA champions the following principles when it comes to child welfare:
DPA’s Colorado office has co-founded the Colorado Coalition to Protect Children and Family Rights. DPA’s New York Policy Office has been organizing with parents and children impacted by child welfare services because of drug use.
DPA has also represented leading medical and public health organizations in amicus briefs in state and federal cases opposing the criminalization of drug use during pregnancy.