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This Article begins by exploring and documenting the connections between domestic violence, substance abuse, and child abuse. Part II of the Article examines the legal system's response to child protection cases in which maternal abuse and, in some cases, substance abuse are present. This section begins by describing the shifting theories underlying child welfare in this country. It then contrasts these theories with child welfare practice by reporting the results of a study of eighty-five Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases in four jurisdictions in Maryland. Although the study examines a limited sample, the cases examined confirm the strong connection between domestic violence, substance abuse, and child protection intervention. In addition, the study reveals the substantial obstacles to developing appropriate child welfare policies in a system that is 1) severely underfunded; 2) not designed to appropriately screen for domestic violence and substance abuse problems; and 3) able to provide only the most rudimentary and boilerplate services and referrals to deal with these problems. Any effort to refocus child welfare politics on family preservation must begin by addressing these issues. Reform efforts that seek to repeal or change ASFA may shift attention from the real barrier to effective assistance to families at risk. The Article concludes by calling for a shift in public policy priorities and summarizing the most promising proposals for improving a child protection system which must respond to these multiple problems.



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