HARRISBURG – The state House today in Harrisburg approved legislation introduced by Rep. Ann Flood (R-Northampton) that would enable county agencies to seek a court order for a drug or alcohol test for a parent or guardian being investigated for child abuse.
“We know that drugs and alcohol can be a contributing factor in an overwhelming number of child neglect and abuse cases,” Flood said. “When county agencies are investigating child abuse incidents, we want them to have every tool they need to protect that child.”
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court in a June 2020 decision ruled a county children and youth agency cannot force a parent to submit to a drug screening test as part of a child welfare investigation.
The state Child Protective Services Law does not specifically provide county agencies with the authority to compel an involuntary sample during the course of child abuse investigations. While the authority is not expressed in the law, counties had traditionally considered it within their investigative powers.
Flood’s legislation – House Bill 1737
– which she believes stands on solid constitutional footing, recognizes and protects individual liberty and privacy rights. It would specifically authorize in state law the power of county agencies to compel involuntary drug or alcohol samples from parents through a court order during child abuse investigations. The bill would grant this power only in cases with evidence of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, abuse or neglect of a child and a causal link between the two.
“The goal is to protect children by ensuring counties have access to factual information related to parental substance abuse,” Flood said. “If a parent is taking drugs or drinking alcohol and abusing their child, we need to have the ability to rescue that child and keep them safe.”
Flood’s bill now heads to the state Senate for consideration.
More information about Flood is available on her website at RepAnnFlood.com
or by following her on Facebook at Facebook.com/RepAnnFlood
Representative Ann Flood
138th Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Dan Massing