Drug War

Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Baby?

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Last week I noted an ACLU lawsuit by the parents of a baby girl whom government agents in Pennsylvania abducted because her mother tested positive for opiates in a hospital drug screen, thanks to poppy seeds on a bagel she had recently consumed. Charles Davis of Change.org reports that other parents have had similar experiences in Lawrence County, where caseworkers and officials at Jameson Hospital conspire to separate mothers from their newborn infants based on nothing more than a positive drug test, without bothering to investigate whether the babies are in any danger. Sara Rose, the lead attorney in the lawsuit against Jameson Hospital annd Lawrence County Children & Youth Services (CYS), describes one such incident:

In that case, the mother "was admitted to Jameson and drug tested without her knowledge, and the drug test was positive for marijuana." The hospital then reported her to CYS, which told her that while her husband could take the child home, "she could not live in the same house and had to find another place to live or else the baby was going to be put in foster care."

For the first two months of her newborn daughter's life, the mother was only able to visit her child for one hour every other week until the ACLU was able to win her custody back in family court. But like countless others who have suffered the indignity of being called drug addicts and having their child taken away, the mother did not want to press ahead with a federal civil rights case.

The problem with Lawrence County's policy is not just that urinalysis is not always reliable. It is also that drug use during pregnancy does not ipso facto prove that a newborn is in danger of neglect or abuse, or that he would be better off in foster care. "By law," Davis notes, "the state is only permitted to take a child from its parents if there's clear evidence of abuse or imminent danger—and only as a last resort." The government does not (and should not) automatically seize the children of women who drink alcohol or smoke tobacco during pregnancy, and there is no rational reason to treat illegal drugs differently.

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75 responses to “Smoke a Joint, Lose Your Baby?

  1. “The problem with Lawrence County’s policy is not just that urinalysis is not always reliable.

    No.

    The problem is that it is none of their f*****g business in the first place.

    1. What if the mother takes enough drugs to mess up their kid? I think there is a certain point where it does become child abuse.

      1. Most cities that imposed forced testing of mothers during the “crack baby” media scare have since repealed it, and for good reason. For every real “crack baby” case, there are hundreds of mothers with more moderate drug-use patterns — and the law deters them, not from using drugs but from getting prenatal care or going to the hospital to give birth. Result: MORE DEAD KIDS. Anyone who doesn’t agree that THAT’s the bottom line has the wrong set of priorities.

      2. Fetal abuse?

  2. I would sue that hospital until it bled. Can’t they get reamed under HIPPA?

    1. They’re also mandatory reporters of child endangerment. While drug use during pregnancy isn’t ipso facto child abuse/endangerment –and even where it is, the remedy is ususally drug counselling not foster care–the hospital and legitimately aruge that they have a duty to report drug test findings.

      It’s the Children & Youth Services who decided on the child removal first, see how bad the drug use is later approach.

  3. Well, that child would be far worse in CPS custody and with foster parents than with her real parents, especially in this case.

    Growing up, my parents smoked pot all the time. My life was never in jeopardy unless some jackbooted DEA thugs crashed through the house with itchy trigger fingers.

    1. Indeed. Nobody ever cries over their traumatic childhood caused by their parents pot smoking habit.

      1. Well, I hated the fact that they did it. But I remember DARE officers coming in trying to get us to squeal on our drug-using parents. I did not fall for it, but I was still scared of some cops busting in and taking my sisters and I away and throwing us in the foster care system… That was over 20 years ago before the militarized everything and had armed raids on people selling raw milk and playing bingo.

        In today’s world, they toss in tear gas and shoot your dog.. then slam you down on the ground, put their knee in your neck and handcuff you with loopties.

        1. Ain’t it great living in a free country?

          1. This is ‘Merikuh! Love it our leave it, you commie!

  4. I have personal experience with the CYS in Harrisburg, PA, and I can attest that they are fucking incompetent bureaucrats (which I suppose is redundant – besides, who wants a someone who is competent at being a bureaucrat?)

    My mother in law years ago used to take in foster children. Over the years, she must have taken care of at least two dozen kids, maybe more. She always took in infants or toddlers – she didn’t want to and could not have taken care of adolescents or teens. But if there is a heaven, she has earned her place there, that’s for sure. She was the best thing that ever happened to those babies.

    The sick part was always the story behind how they ended up in the foster care system. These are people who truly did deserve to lose their parental rights. For example, a set of fraternal twin boys, less than one year old. One had all kinds of small round marks on his hands and one on his face. The other one didn’t. We learned that the marks were where the mother used to burn the kid with her cigarette, because she didn’t like him as much as the other one. She said he wasn’t cute like his brother, so she had no problem physically abusing him.

    Another one where the mom lived in a trailer with something like six children from something like 3 or 4 different fathers. The kids were aged about 12 months up to 19 years. The oldest daughter, who was about 18, lived in the trailer with her boyfriend, who was in his 30s and was a convicted child molester. The mother spent most of her time drunk and on hard drugs, and had two boyfriends living in the trailer with her. CYS found the baby in the dog house in the muddy back yard in nothing but a diaper in March (temperatures in the 30s). His 2 or 3 year-old sister was taking care of him.

    The mom had to take “parenting” classes and said she didn’t want her older kids; she wanted only the babies back. I guess so she could fuck them up but good, like she had done with the others.

    The sick thing is that in each case, after the parent passed the appropriate state-required “parenting” class, they got the kids back – despite repeated displays of serious anger issues and abusive treatment.

    There are indeed times when kids need to be taken away from their parents, for their own protection – when it truly is in the best interest of the child to not be with their space cadet, abusive parent.

    This sure as hell does not look like one of those cases.

    1. The whole thing is about money and the cargo cult we call social sciences BSR. The woman who burnt her kid with the cigarette went to the “parenting classes”. That does two things. First and foremost it puts tax money in the pockets of the people who run the classes. It provides employment to the people who work there.

      Second, it perpetuates the cargo cult. She went to the classes. She said the right things. She is therefore a better parent and now fit. The fact that the classes are worthless and if someone is so deprived that they would stick a burning cigarette on a two year old no class is going to fix them, doesn’t matter. What matters is the inputs and the process.

      The worst part about the system is that it rewards the guilty and punishes the innocent. If you are innocent of abusing your kid and just caught up in the bureaucracy by mistake, you are going to revolt against the classes. The first thing those classes are going to expect you to do is admit you are a bad parent and abused your kid. Most innocent people won’t do that. So they will never complete the class or get their kid back until they just buckle under and lie.

      A sociopath like the woman in your story, however, will think nothing of telling those people exactly what they want to hear. And they will float right through the system and be right back doing what they were before no worse for wear.

      1. But do the cargo cultists believe in what they’re doing, or are they too psychopaths?

    2. That part about the baby in the dog house brought tears to my eyes. Absolutely monstrous, and it’s horrifying that someone would get their kids back after that kind of treatment.

      1. Parents who do things like that deserve to be shot.

        No hearing, no trial, no nothing.

        Just take a couple pictures of the baby as proof, take the woman out back, and execute her.

        1. So removal of due process would be “for the children”?

          I know you’re probably being hyperbolic, but this is the type of reaction that gives us all of the “for the children” shit.

          1. You’re telling me that a woman who leaves an infant in a dog house under the care of a toddler deserves due process?

            Fuck that.
            Shoot the bitch.

            1. To be clear, it seems she simply did not know where the baby was. She was in the trailer at the time, either doing or under the influence of drugs. The toddler sister was looking after baby, and it seems she took him out back to play with the doggie and put him in the doghouse.

              Not much better, I know, but as far as we know, mom didn’t put him in the doghouse – she simply neglected him and sis and didn’t know what they were up to.

              These are just a couple of the more outrageous cases my MIL dealt with.

              She fed those kids, bought them clothes – above and beyond what the CYS money paid for, mind you – and showed them the kind of love and care their own biological “parents” apparently were completely incapable of. She taught them how to walk, talk, laugh, etc.

              She had one baby girl who never cried, never made any noise at all. Because she had learned by the time she was a few months old that all the crying in the world would not get her any attention. Mom would just leave her lying the crib all day and occasionally stick a bottle in her mouth and then go down to the local bar to get drunk and high on crack. The back of her head literally was flat from just lying in the crib all day. She made me think of those monkeys they would remove from their mother and just leave in a box. She had a very vacant, faraway look in her eyes – like the light was on, but nobody was home. That was one of the saddest cases.

              I sometimes wonder what happened to some of those kids. They would be in their teens and twenties now. Wouldn’t be surprised one bit if many of them were in prison or dead, despite my MIL’s ministrations.

            2. So you’re saying that we can ignore due process if the accusation is serious enough?

              1. I’m saying that as the father of a twelve month old I would have shot the bitch in the face.

            3. Of course one needs due process to ascertain that in fact the infant was left in the dog house under the care of the toddler. The fact that you doubt that just shows how perverted “due process” has become. It should be about determining facts, period.

  5. Of course, the people at Wonkette think reason only covers this issue when “teabaggers” are involved.

  6. People who use these drugs should not be permitted to keep a baby. They may accidentally drown the baby in the bathtub because of these drugs.

    1. Let me be clear, Juanita, I couldn’t agree more.

      http://www.gonzotimes.com/wp-c…..juana.jpeg

    2. Unlike all the “clean” parents out there who never do anything like drive their children into a lake and drown them or anything like that.

      1. To do this they too must be using these drugs.

    3. Juanita troll is Juanita.

      1. Or is that marijuanita?

        1. You drug abusers should all be in the penitentiary

          1. How about us drug nurturers?

          2. Because I keed you and joke, I’m a drug abuser?

            I haven’t smoked a damn thing in over 20 years.

            At least I’m not so ignorant and stupid as to think that marijuana is some huge scourge and threat to public health that anyone who tokes up a doober needs to go to prison.

            Are you able to breathe and walk at the same time?

            1. “I haven’t smoked a damn thing in over 20 years.”

              Once the brain is destroyed by these drugs, all the time in the world won’t make it healthy again.

  7. Some legal atmospherics:

    Disclosure of drug testing reports to cops and/or CPS can be done under HIPAA if, and only if:

    (1) Required by law (its possible that there is a statute on the books “deeming” a positive drug test to be evidence of abuse.

    (2) The provider has reason to believe that someone is in imminent danger of death or serious bodily harm (don’t know how you get that from a drug test).

    That’s about it. Various states have all kinds of crazy shit on the books regarding drug tests of pregnant women, etc.

    Now, drug testing without the informed consent of the patient – that’s a tough one. Under Texas law, I advise my clients not to do it. First, if they are doing it for treatment-related purposes, well, you need informed consent of a patient before doing anything treatment-related. If they aren’t doing it for treatment-related purposes, then why the hell is a hospital or physician doing it in the first place?

  8. Aren’t there bigger crimes out there that family services should be focusing on? Like, oh I dunno, homes where real abuse is taking place, where children are getting molested and beaten… and spouses, too? They’re wasting their time with shit like this, flexing muscle to feel better about their other shortcomings.

  9. “Oh my god! She recently had Lidocaine and Nesacaine in her system! She’s the eighth one in the past two days! There’s an epidemic of drug use among these mothers!”

    1. Cute kid you’ve got there. It would be a shame if something happened to him.

  10. I think all child welfare laws and all CPS agencies should be closed. They clearly do no good whatsoever in protecting children. You could set up some kind of state run foster care and welfare service for children who are abandoned or their parents go to jail. But other than that, do nothing. The harm these agencies create greatly outweighs the little if any good they provide.

    1. They clearly do no good whatsoever in protecting children.

      John, you’ve had better moments. Where would kids who really have been (physical/sexual) abused go?

      1. Where do they do now?

        1. In the Twin Cities, they can go here:

          http://www.youthlinkmn.org/

          And the county does everything it can to tie the hands of the people doing this great work.

      2. I saw a study out of PA I think, that showed that on balance, Child Services caused more harm than good. A lot like the drug war, but then what would you expect from government work?

      3. As I said, have a state run foster care and welfare service for kids’ whose parents go to jail. If they are truly abused, the parents are guilty of battery or attempted murder or any number of other common law crimes. Go ahead and throw the book at the parents and send the kids to new homes. But why do you need a huge CPS to do that?

        1. Of topic, but county-related.

          I just got my proposed property tax statement for 2011. The value of my property remained unchanged from last year. The county budget is exacly the same as it was last year YET my taxes went up 20%. WTF???

          1. Remember, Texans are the price we pay for civilization.

          2. So they upped the tax rate. Not surprising. All you can do is appeal your assessment and try to bring it down.

            Property tax is brutal, dude. You don’t own your property; you just rent it from the county.

  11. SERIOUS QUESTION Do any of you think that in 2010 children are NOT the property of the state? That parents ONLY function is something other than upkeep and maintenance? In the eyes of the state, is there a difference between your home or auto and your child?

    1. Their not technically state property. The gov just has an easement, sort of like that patch of ground between the street and sidewalk that you “own”.

      1. Speaking of which, can I deed my easement to the city/state/county/phone company/water company/etc and lower my tax bill by a few square feet?

    2. Seriously, unless you’re an anomistic anarchist, how else could it be? If there is to be some recourse for child abuse, someone has to decide. Who?

  12. GUMMIT STOLED MAH BABY

    Speaking of the shitgargler John Cole, this is sad. “Juices shot out both sides of my mouth.”

    1. “Juices shot out both sides of my mouth.”

      Couldn’t have been the first time.

    2. Wait, it was a wonkette guy who did the GUMMINT STOLED MY BABY shit, not John Cole. Oh well. Any time is a good time to insult him.

  13. I bet if more assholes got shot in the head it would encourage others to not become assholes. Just a theory postulate I’ve been tossing around lately.

  14. The government does not (and should not) automatically seize the children of women who drink alcohol or smoke tobacco during pregnancy…

    Just give them time. Does anybody seriously doubt that this is where it’s all headed? They’ll take them away whether they are in the womb or in the same room.

  15. The government does not (and should not) automatically seize the children of women who drink alcohol or smoke tobacco during pregnancy, and there is no rational reason to treat illegal drugs differently.

    In my childbirth classes and in the various pregnancy books, they are saying that small amounts of alcohol infrequently during pregnancy are okay. For instance, one of them says “have a glass of wine on your birthday!”.

    I’m sure the various child protection agencies are having a conniption fit now…

    1. My wife’s doctor told her the same thing. Actually dark beer and red wine have a lot of nutrients in them. Having a few glasses of either a week is healthy.

      1. My wife’s doctor told her the same thing. Actually dark beer and red wine have a lot of nutrients in them. Having a few glasses of either a week is healthy.

        Unless you are a developing fetus trying to grow a brain. Really. This is bad advice. Stop passing it along.

        1. Give the links Neu Mexican. Sorry but I am buying the doctor over someone talking shit over the internet. People drank for thousands of years during pregnancy. Yet, someone the human race didn’t die off and produced geniuses. How was that.

          I will fully admit being a drunk is horrible. And there is such a thing as fetal alchohol syndrome. But one glass of wine a week? I want to see the studies on that.

          “If you are choosing occasional drug use during pregnancy you are safer with heroin, or cocaine, or MJ or Meth than you are with that glass of wine on your birthday.”

          That is just complete nonsense. The studies you are talking about are pure correlations studies. The studies go both ways on the subject of whether light drinking is good or bad. I would point you to this one that found it had no effect

          http://jech.bmj.com/content/ea…..2.abstract

          Honestly, I don’t think there is any sort of nanny state state advice you are not pre disposed to believe. You are astounding sometimes.

          1. Ahhhh yes.
            I knew someone would pull this one up.

            There are serious problems with this study. This is hard research to do and this one has deep flaws. Make sure you read the responses from doctors and other researchers that follow.

            As for prenatal heroin…while withdrawal is tough on the kid, there really aren’t any long term consequences showing up in studies of long term effects. Similar for cocaine, although there may be some subtle stuff there.

            Start with the basic science on this one John. The teratogenic effects of alcohol are well known and based in animal studies.

            There’s no nanny state involved here.
            Just basic information. Alcohol is poison to your baby’s brain. It disrupts cell migration and other basic processes during embryological development. Sure, the kid’s system might be robust enough to take that glass of wine…but why risk it?

            Stick with the safer drugs if you need to get high during pregnancy.

            1. People drank for thousands of years during pregnancy. Yet, someone [sic] the human race didn’t die off and produced geniuses. How was that.

              I never said it would kill your baby. Prenatal alcohol mainly impacts the brain. Think of it as shaving points of your kids IQ.

              It’s just information women should consider when making their choices.

              You are passing along bad advice. And now you are trying to rationalize it. Stop doing it. It is bad advice. Your doctor is wrong. He is not an expert on the topic.

              1. That would, of course, be “off your kid’s IQ.”

          2. This is probably a dead thread, but for completeness:

            John said: Having a few glasses of either a week is healthy.

            A few glasses a week.

            In response to my post saying this is bad advice he says: But one glass of wine a week

            Not the advice he passed along that I criticized.

            The advice to abstain during pregnancy is a logical argument.

            Alcohol is teratogenic and harms brain growth and functioning.
            A safe exposure level has not been determined.
            That glass of wine you are having may be disruptive of an important embryological event taking place at the time you are drinking it. That single event has the potential to cause harm.

            Why risk it?

    2. In my childbirth classes and in the various pregnancy books, they are saying that small amounts of alcohol infrequently during pregnancy are okay. For instance, one of them says “have a glass of wine on your birthday!”.

      I do research on the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy. You are getting bad advice.

      Because there is an unknown genetic risk factor that seems to make some babies particularly vulnerable to alcohol exposure, there is no way for your doctor to know what the risk is for a particular child. Research suggests that even very small amounts of alcohol do measurable harm (at the group level). No safe level has been determined, even though much work has been done to find one.

      The best evidence would recommend a hierarchy of drug choices during pregnancy with alcohol as the choice of last resort.

      If you are choosing occasional drug use during pregnancy you are safer with heroin, or cocaine, or MJ or Meth than you are with that glass of wine on your birthday.

      Alcohol is the most teratogenic recreational drug…why would you choose it over safer choices?

      1. I’m sure the various child protection agencies are having a conniption fit now…

        Not really. It is bad advice from a medical stand point, but no one I know who works on the public health side of this recommends anything beyond trying to get good information out to mothers about the risk drinking during pregnancy.

        1. “but no one I know who works on the public health side of this recommends anything beyond trying to get good information out to mothers about the risk drinking during pregnancy.”

          Because everyone knows an anecdote is authoritative.

          1. My anecdote is more authoritative than yours.

      2. “I do research on the harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy.”

        Where? For Whom? In what Capacity?

        1. Where? For Whom? In what Capacity?

          Major research university. As primary investigator. Studying long-term learning and language impairments in children exposed prenatally to alcohol. If you are familiar with the research, you’ve read my stuff. Also lead author on a couple of chapters on the topic this year.

          Of course as an anonymous poster on the internet, you can believe me or not. No skin off of my teeth.

  16. America is over. Power hungry government and sheep like people. Fuck you USA.

  17. and I really enjoy reading your article. Your do have some unique ideas here and I expect more pandora charms articles from you. Great resources of pandora bracelets!

  18. Since the squirrels won’t let me directly comment on Neu’s posts…

    Neu said:
    “Research suggests that even very small amounts of alcohol do measurable harm (at the group level). No safe level has been determined, even though much work has been done to find one.”

    Lovely, where have i heard, “no safe level” before

    “If you are choosing occasional drug use during pregnancy you are safer with heroin, or cocaine, or MJ or Meth than you are with that glass of wine on your birthday.”

    More “no safe level” agitprop.
    AND, in a perfect world yes, but in reality this could cause the negative effects so blatantly obvious in todays article.
    Hmm, a couple of lost IQ points in the most sensitive children VS. a person turned into a felon branded as an unfit parent. Awesome.
    Hell, what’s to say if certain children are uber sensitive to teratogens that some other one caused a majority of the damage. Ah yes, lovely confounders.

    You know John posted a study, you didn’t, the usual ‘just look at the reasearch’. I might, and the 1st thing i’ll look for is if there is any connection to a Pharma Co or maybe RWJF. Or maybe there’s more important things to do. And we JUST went through that at the Picasso’s anyways, during which time i read this ->
    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…..975770.ece
    “In case that lot is not enough to worry about, you also shouldn’t get stressed (it lowers the baby’s IQ, apparently).
    “There is no research basis for saying that a little alcohol will do the baby harm; it’s the heavy intake and the binge drinking that is the problem (and are pregnant alcoholics going to listen anyway?).”

    1. Lovely, where have i heard, “no safe level” before

      I said no safe level has been determined. The situation is this. We know that alcohol is poisonous to the fetus. We assume that there is some safe level of exposure. We don’t know what that is. When someone, like John, posits that level X is safe, they are talking out their ass.

      More “no safe level” agitprop.
      AND, in a perfect world yes, but in reality this could cause the negative effects so blatantly obvious in todays article.

      An issue, certainly. I was sticking to the biological harm.

      Hmm, a couple of lost IQ points in the most sensitive children VS. a person turned into a felon branded as an unfit parent. Awesome.

      No, that is a few IQ points in the kids that are not particularly sensitive. Serious impairments in the sensitive kids.

      Hell, what’s to say if certain children are uber sensitive to teratogens that some other one caused a majority of the damage. Ah yes, lovely confounders.

      This makes no sense. Think it through.

      You know John posted a study, you didn’t, the usual ‘just look at the reasearch’.

      John cherry picked a study to support his view. Easy enough to do. The latest systematic review of the subject said that the research is not conclusive and that in the light of the uncertainty there was no support for claims that light drinking was safe. You can spin that as no evidence it is dangerous, if you want, but that is, actually not supported by the data.

      I might, and the 1st thing i’ll look for is if there is any connection to a Pharma Co or maybe RWJF.

      No drug sales in recommending abstinence during pregnancy. What is the angle you are worried about here?

      Or maybe there’s more important things to do. And we JUST went through that at the Picasso’s anyways, during which time i read this ->

      http://www.timesonline.co.uk/t…..975770.ece
      “In case that lot is not enough to worry about, you also shouldn’t get stressed (it lowers the baby’s IQ, apparently).

      Stress is bad. There are many ways to deal with stress other than alcohol. Most are safer for the baby.

      “There is no research basis for saying that a little alcohol will do the baby harm; it’s the heavy intake and the binge drinking that is the problem (and are pregnant alcoholics going to listen anyway?).”

      This is incorrect. Heavy frequent drinking and binge drinking are certainly bad. But there is good evidence that even moderate drinking has bad outcomes. The only place where there is not a clear answer yet is the effect of light drinking.

      I am not an agent of the state. I do not think mothers should be prosecuted for their behavior during pregnancy. But their behavior should be informed. Alcohol is the most teratogenic recreational drug. It should be the last choice. There is no controversy on these well established facts.

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