May 1, 2002
RANDOM DRUG TESTING OF FOSTER PARENTS
By: Saul Spigel, Chief Analyst
You asked whether the Department of Children and Families (DCF) randomly tests foster parents for drugs and, if not, whether it has considered such a policy.
DCF does not test prospective or licensed foster parents for drug use nor has it not considered random drug testing for them. Instead, it conducts a criminal background check of all applicants for a foster care license and the members of their household. Its regulations
1. require it to deny a license if the applicant or a household member has been convicted of possession, use, or sale of any controlled substance within the previous five years;
2. allow it to deny initial licensure if an applicant or any member of the household is on trial or awaiting trial for any of these acts; and
3. allow it to refuse to renew a foster parent's license if any member of the household is on trial, awaiting trial, or has been convicted of a drug offense after the license was issued (Conn Agency Regs. 17a-145-152).
DCF legislative liaison, Debra Korta, stated that if the agency received an allegation of drug use about a foster parent, it would ask the person to undergo a substance abuse evaluation.
Foster parents have a dual relationship to the state: they are both licensees and, at least for the limited purpose of indemnification for liability, state employees (see Hunte v. Blumenthal, 238 Conn. 146). No Connecticut law conditions receiving a state license (occupational or other) on passing a drug test. And, except for state employees whose jobs require commercial drivers' licenses or who are otherwise subject to federal requirements, state employees are subject to drug tests only when there is a reasonable suspicion that they are using drugs and that it is affecting their work. Prospective state employees are subject to drug tests as part of a preemployment physical only if their jobs have been identified as having a high risk of injury. Such tests are required for 62 job classifications, including: correction officers, police, firefighters, and certain social and medical workers.
In matters of drug testing, state employees are protected by the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits the government from carrying out unreasonable searches. In determining whether a search is reasonable, the individual's privacy interests are weighed against the government's legitimate interests in the search. The reasonableness of a particular search under the Fourth Amendment primarily depends on whether a special need exists for the testing, how intrusive the test is, and whether there is an individualized suspicion that a particular test subject has been abusing drugs (45A Am Jur 2nd 482).