Expert in Child Abuse & Neglect Lecture Series: Kathryn M. Wells, MD, FAAP

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Conference Center At Mercer

1200 Old Trenton Road

West Windsor Township, NJ 08550

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February 4, 2020, Navigating the Complex Intersection between Substance Abuse and Child Maltreatment By Kathryn M. Wells, MD, FAAP

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The CARES Institute's Expert in Child Abuse and Neglect Lecture Series:

Navigating the Complex Intersection between Substance Abuse and Child Maltreatment

Venue: The Conference Center at Mercer, 1200 Old Trenton Road, West Windsor, NJ

Intended audiences: This presentation is intended for child protection workers, law enforcement personnel, attorneys, physicians, nurses, mental health professionals (including psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers of all levels, and licensed counselors), and all other disciplines not listed.

Presentation Description:

Substance use and abuse by caregivers creates an intersection of risks for adverse events for infants and children. These risks include the potential for both direct harm from exposure to the drug, drug paraphernalia, or drug manufacturing process as well as indirect harm from exposure to the effects that substance abuse can have on a caregiver and the co-occurring issues surrounding substance abuse. In the current epidemic of substance use in the United States, many professionals (child welfare, healthcare, law enforcement) can play a critical role in addressing its negative impact on children and families by identifying substance-exposed children and facilitating appropriate health care and societal responses.

This presentation will begin by describing the interface between caregiver substance misuse and child maltreatment, outlining the different settings in which infants and children could be “drug-endangered”. The challenges of identification including strategies and limitations of screening and confirmatory drug testing in infants and children will be described. Elements of an effective and robust multidisciplinary response and the development of management plans for the drug-endangered infant or child including health assessment, safety and long-term follow up will be outlined. Finally, implications for policy and practice transformation will be discussed.

Learning Objectives: Participants will be able to:

  1. Recognize different settings in which infants and children could be “drug-endangered” and outline the dangers of drug and alcohol environments for children
  2. Describe the impact of in utero substance exposures including child developmental outcomes
  3. Outline the utility of different drug testing methodologies and the benefits, limitations, and ethical considerations of current drug screening and testing protocols (universal vs. targeted approaches)
  4. Formulate a multidisciplinary response to drug endangered children
  5. Describe the value of family centered approaches to ensure the safety, health, and well-being of substance-exposed children and their caregivers

Kathryn Wells, MD is the Executive Director of the Kempe Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect and the Section Head for Child Abuse and Neglect in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Colorado, School of Medicine. Prior to this role, Dr. Wells served as the Medical Director and Team Lead of the Denver Health medical clinic at the Denver Family Crisis Center for 15 years. Dr. Wells is also an attending physician with the Kempe Child Protection Team at Children’s Hospital Colorado and has an academic appointment as an Associate Professor in Pediatrics at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center. She is a Board Certified Pediatrician and is Sub Boarded in Child Abuse Pediatrics.

Dr. Wells is originally from Great Falls, Montana where much of her family still resides. She received her B.A. in Biology and Psychology with Magna Cum Laude honors from Carroll College in Helena, MT and then attended medical school at Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, NE, receiving her MD in 1993. She received her postgraduate training as a Pediatric Resident at Creighton – Nebraska Universities Health Foundation Joint Pediatric Residency Program also in Omaha, NE.

After completion of her training, Dr. Wells joined the Family Medical Clinic in Caldwell, ID where she practiced general pediatrics for five years. Dr. Wells then left Idaho to pursue Fellowship training in Denver, CO at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, The Kempe Children’s Center and The Children’s Hospital in the Pediatric subspecialty field of Child Abuse and Neglect from 2001-2003. In November 2009, Dr. Wells became one of the inaugural class of Diplomats of the American Board of Pediatrics in Child Abuse and Neglect Pediatrics.

Dr. Wells is a Past President of the Colorado Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and also serves on the Colorado Court Improvement Program, the Colorado Behavioral Health Task Force Children's Subcommittee, and the State Substance Abuse Trend and Response Task Force where she co-chairs the Substance Exposed Newborns Steering Committee. She was selected by Colorado’s Governor Bill Ritter to serve on the Child Welfare Action Committee from 2008 – 2009, the Governor’s Working Group on the Structure of Colorado’s Human Services System and the Centralized Call Center for Child Abuse and Neglect Referrals in 2010. Dr. Wells assisted in the formation of the Colorado Alliance for Drug Endangered Children where she currently serves as an advisor.

Dr. Wells has led clinical research regarding drug issues as they relate to children including receiving a grant from ACYF’s Children’s Bureau to develop a model program to better identify and serve substance-exposed newborns and their families. Additionally, Dr. Wells received a grant from the HRSA’s Maternal and Child Health Bureau’s Healthy Tomorrows Program to develop a medical home for children in foster care in Denver County through the Connections for Kids Clinic at Denver Health which now provides medical evaluations for the majority of the children placed in foster care in the City and County of Denver.

Dr. Wells was awarded the Kempe Foundation’s Professional Award in April 2014 and James E. Strain Community Service Award in 2011 in recognition of her outstanding contribution to children’s interests in the community outside her regular activities. In 2007 Dr. Wells received both the inaugural National Collaborative Leadership Award from the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare as well as the Commissioner’s Award from the Administration on Children, Youth and Families (ACYF) branch of HHS. Additionally, in October 2009 she received the Colorado CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) Advocate of the Year Award.

Dr. Wells also does extensive additional teaching in the area of maternal substance abuse and child maltreatment.

In her spare time, Dr. Wells enjoys anything related to the outdoors including cycling, hiking, and camping.


9:25 AM – Definitions/Outlining the problem

.....................a. Drug endangered infant or child

........................i. Drug use, manufacture, or distribution by caregivers in the home

........................ii. Drug use in pregnancy

........................iii. Co-occurring psychosocial issues in the life of the caregiver.

.....................b. Specific drug impacts

........................i. Opioids; ii. Stimulants; iii. Marijuana, Alcohol

10:35 AM – Break

10:40 AM – Identification

......................a. Drug screening

......................b. Drug testing

......................c. Healthcare systems

11:10 AM – Response

......................a. Multidisciplinary approach

......................b. Outcomes

11:40 AM – Policy implications

11:55 PM – Conclusion and Q & A

12:00 PM – End of Presentation

Requesting Assistance: If you require assistance with hearing, vision or mobility to make this conference accessible to you, please contact the office at (856) 566-6744 three (3) weeks prior to the conference.

Accreditation: Please contact the CARES Institute at (856) 566-6744 or for information about continuing education credits.

*Attendees must attend the entire conference, return a completed evaluation in order to earn CE credits. Attendees who meet this requirement will receive their certificate when they sign out (nurses will receive via email after completing online survey).

Psychologists: Rowan University CARES Institute is approved by the American Psychological Association to sponsor continuing education for psychologists. Rowan University CARES Institute maintains responsibility for this program and its content.

Social Workers: An application has been submitted to the Association of Social Work Boards ACE Program.

Attorneys: An application has been submitted to the Board on Continuing Legal Education of the Supreme Court of New Jersey.

Nurses: An application has been submitted to Cooper University Healthcare as an approved provider of continuing nursing education by New Jersey State Nurses Association.

Physicians: An application has been submitted to Medical Society of New Jersey through the joint providership of Atlantic Health System and the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Chapter.

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Conference Center At Mercer

1200 Old Trenton Road

West Windsor Township, NJ 08550

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