Delaware Public Media

Delaware sees more babies born exposed to drugs, alcohol

Sep 14, 2017

Doctors in Delaware warn more infants in the state are born dependent on drugs and alcohol.


So Delaware is implementing new guidance to help identify mothers with addiction problems and engage their families to ensure they get the treatment and support to protect their babies.

The Division of Family Services said it received more than 400 reports of infants being exposed to substances last year. The most common substances were opioids and marijuana.

David Paul, chair of the pediatrics department at Christiana Care Health System, said they’re seeing more and more babies born addicted to opiates. Those babies must stay in the hospital for days or weeks after being born while being weaned off the drug.

“Nobody wants their baby to be in the hospital for that long," he said. "It’s stressful for families, there’s concern about neurodevelopment in babies who are exposed to substances in utero.”

DFS Deputy Division Director Trenne Parker said moms fear family services will take their kids into custody, if they seek help. But Parker said they want to help moms develop plans to keep their babies safe.

“The number of children that we have to place in out-of-home care is very small compared with the children we’re able to safety plan to stay with their families," she said. "So, families are invested in the work. We know that parents want their children to be with them and we need to be there to help them have that support that they need to do that.”

Paul said there’s no amount of drugs or alcohol that are safe for women when they’re pregnant. Exposing unborn babies to drugs or alcohol can cause birth defects and interfere with its development.