Meet Dr. Stephanie Deutsch, Co-Medical Director of the Children At Risk Evaluation (C.A.R.E) Program and Section Chief of Child Abuse Pediatric Medicine (within the Division of General Pediatrics) at Nemours Children’s Hospital. Dr. Deutsch, along with her partner Dr. Allan De Jong, MD have been conducting an ACCEL-supported project researching child welfare involvement among prenatally substance exposed infants.
Dr. Deutsch became interested in this project through her work at Nemours as a board-certified child abuse pediatrician for the state of Delaware; she and Dr. DeJong evaluate infants and children for whom there is a safety concern, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, or supervisory neglect. Drs. Deutsch and DeJong were noticing a clinical trend, that a growing proportion of infants seen for serious physical or fatal abusive injury were prenatally substance exposed; those trends were consistent across the state, with data suggesting nearly 3/4ths of injured infants in Delaware were prenatally substance exposed.
Because prior research has established that substance abuse negatively impacts the whole family, Dr. Deutsch wanted to further explore the link between substance abuse among caregivers and involvement of child welfare services. A memorandum of understanding was created with Delaware’s statewide child welfare agency to data share, and a study was developed looking at differences in maternal, infant and substance exposure factors with level of child welfare involvement (such as whether the cases were screened in for investigation and treatment, or screened out). The study assessed over 1,200 substance-exposed infants and factors associated with intervention by the state child welfare agency.
Dr. Deutsch remarked, “ The ACCEL Program has supported this study in statistical and analytical support through the B.E.R.D Core, which has been a tremendous aid. We’ve also had the pleasure of mentorship through the Professional Development Core as they assisted with study development and methodology. Once we outlined the study with mentors such as Dr. Mia Papas and Dr. Robert Akins, we were then able to hand over the statistical support to Jobayer Hossain, PhD, who oversees all of our studies in production.”
Dr. Deutsch is continuing this research with prenatally exposed infants and family adversities. Through a continued partnership with Delaware’s child welfare agency, she is looking at the best way to support families affected by substance use, identify which programs provide effective support and ways to prevent negative health and safety outcomes for this population. If you are interested in this study or would like more information, email Dr. Deutsch at Stephanie.Deutsch@nemours.org.