Johnson Astills Solicitors Banner Image


News and Events

Why are Drug/Alcohol Tests Ordered with Child Care Cases?

  • Posted

Substance abuse can have a significant impact on childcare proceedings, as it can lead to social workers having concerns about the safety and wellbeing of children. When a parent or caregiver struggles with substance abuse, it is thought they may be unable to provide adequate care for their children, which can result in, for example neglect and the risk of physical harm through a child accessing substances by not being properly supervised.

When deciding whether to protect a child, the Court can direct that a drug or alcohol test be done to assess any suspected substance abuse. It is thought by social workers that this assists in evaluating the child's environment, the type of care they will receive, and the circumstances they will be exposed to. To determine if a parent or carer has ever used drugs or alcohol — or does so currently — a drug or alcohol test is requested.  You can refuse to provide a sample but seek advice from a solicitor about this before refusing.

When do Court-ordered Drug/Alcohol Tests Occur?

When there is enough evidence to suggest a parent may be using drugs, the Local Authority will typically make an application to the Court to approve one of these tests, or both. The information they have could be from social services reports, medical reports, records of previous offenses, witness testimony, or reports from other law enforcement agencies. The Court may agree that a test is needed, and the results would assist the Court in making decisions. The outcome of the test can prove that the parent ‘s denial of drug use is proved or that the Local Authority’s suspicions are correct. On its own, drug use does not prove that a person is an unfit parent.

Do I Need to do These Tests?

It is generally advisable to take the tests as ordered by the Court instead of refusing as it may lead to the Court drawing inferences – such as that you are ‘hiding’ something.

If a Court orders drug testing against a parent and if they are not willing to undergo the tests, the Court cannot force them against their will. In such a case where the parent refuses to undertake a drug test the Court tries to understand the reasons behind such refusal.

What are the Different Types of Tests?

The two most common tests for excessive alcohol use is blood testing and for illegal drug use it is hair strand testing.

Hair strand testing can be segmented or provide an overall analysis. If your hair is very curly then it cannot be segmented. A segmented test provides a more detailed view, month by month report. It is averaged that each centimetre of hair growth represents one month’s growth; however, this can vary for each person. When a person consumes drugs, they are broken down and a large proportion of the drug and metabolites is released into the blood, which can be shown in the hair. An overall analysis is a general overview of the drugs used.

A blood test is used to test for alcohol within the bloodstream. This measures the level of a particular compound which is present in the blood after alcohol has been consumed.

Whilst there are other methods of testing for drugs and alcohol, these are the most common tests which occur during childcare proceedings, if the Local Authority have concerns of substance misuse.

How can we Help?

We appreciate how worrying it can be to be in this situation can be. Our Care Team at Johnson Astills Solicitors can offer advice, assistance, and representation at all stages of the Local Authority’s involvement including assistance in relation to contact.

Should you require our assistance then please email us at or call us at either our Leicester Office on 0116 255 4855 or our Loughborough Office on 01509 610312 and ask for a member of our Care Team to discuss your options further.