A Mother Smokes Weed. Her Baby Was Put In Foster Care.

Author: Yuvi May 22, 2023  A Mother Smokes Weed.  Her Baby Was Put In Foster Care.

Good morning. It’s monday. We’ll look at the case of a Bronx woman who smoked marijuana — legally — before giving birth, only to have her baby removed by the city’s child welfare agency while she was still in the hospital.

Nor did Rivers spend time with the baby in the first couple of days after she gave birth, a critical bonding time. She says that she was allowed to visit the child daily, but only briefly.

The agency told Rivers, 34, that it was opening a neglect case and was moving to place the infant in foster care.

This was in August 2021. Marijuana had been legal in New York for months. Rivers is now suing the agency.

My colleague Andy Newman, who covers social services and poverty in New York City, writes that the case reflects the continuing uncertainty among authorities about how to treat marijuana now that it has been legalized. But the Rivers case raises other questions that became clear when I asked him to explain what Rivers and the agency say happened.

The lawsuit says that the agency went after Rivers “not because ACS was trying to protect TW” — her baby’s initials — but “because Ms. Rivers is Black. Is there a pattern of discrimination against Black families by the agency?

ACS’s own workers have said there is, in an audit done in 2020 that seemed to confirm what families and advocates have been saying for decades.

The audit — which the ACS did not release until it was compelled to do so under the Freedom of Information Law — surveyed more than 50 Black and Hispanic frontline caseworkers and agency managers, along with many parents and advocates. It described a “predatory system that specifically targets Black and brown parents” and subjects them to “a different level of scrutiny” that is extraordinarily disruptive to families’ lives.

Black families in New York City are seven times as likely as white families to be accused of child maltreatment and 13 times as likely to have their children removed.

While there are many possible explanations for that, and while ACS has taken steps over the years to reduce racial disproportionality, the audit concluded that in the eyes of the agency, “race operates as an indicator of risk” — even though most ACS caseworkers are Black, as is most leadership in the agency’s Division of Child Protection. (The audit was based on conversations with people who chose to participate, rather than on a quantitative survey.)

Rivers said she and her baby were drug tested without her consent. Isn’t that unusual? And why did the doctors and nurses suspect she had been using marijuana? Had she smoked pot in her room at the hospital?

She said that she was asked by a doctor or nurse while giving birth if she had used drugs or alcohol and that she replied that she had smoked weed several hours earlier. It is not clear why she was asked or if that was standard practice at that hospital, BronxCare Health System, which did not respond to my questions.

While many hospitals routinely screen maternity patients verbally for drug use, a study published last month of nearly 40,000 births in Pennsylvania found that Black mothers were more likely to be drug tested than white mothers, even though white mothers were more likely to test positive.

The hospital said that Rivers smoked weed in her room; she denies it.

The ACS required her to attend parenting and anger management classes and take drug tests for three months after she gave birth. Did the ACS say the baby was harmed by the marijuana exposure?

According to its lawsuit, ACS never alleged that TW was harmed. This is potentially significant, because the ACS’s policy on marijuana states that a positive marijuana test in a baby is not grounds for removal by itself — there needs to be a separate finding that the marijuana has caused “impairment or risk of impairment.” The suit also says that the hospital did not treat the baby for anything related to the marijuana exposure.

Was her baby taken away because she had had a prior child welfare case? What does the agency say?

It’s not clear. In Rivers’s earlier case seven years ago, she lost custody of her two older children for drug and alcohol use and failure to obtain medical care for her older son. But the suit notes that ACS had already cleared her to get those older children back at the time TW was born in August 2021.

The suit also says that both family court judges who presided over the TW case said that the earlier case did not create an imminent risk to TW

ACS may have disagreed with this. The judge who ordered TW returned to Rivers when he was six days old did so over ACS’ objections, according to the suit.

For their part, ACS officials would not answer questions about the case, citing confidentiality laws. They said that as a general policy, they do not remove children based solely on a parent’s use of marijuana and that when they investigate cases involving “parental drug/alcohol misuse,” they “assess the impact any misuse has or may imminently have on child.” safety.”

But the anger management classes and the drug tests weren’t all that Rivers had to deal with.

Rivers said the frequent surprise visits from ACS caseworkers were more than just an annoyance. At the time of TW’s birth, she was working out of her apartment doing hair. Sometimes a random home visit from ACS came while she was with a customer.

Some customers were sympathetic. “A few of my friends go through the same thing I’m going through, so they understand,” Rivers said.

Others were put off.

“Sometimes when ACS popped up I’d just cancel my hair appointments and reimburse them back their money,” she said. “That’s just interfering with my personal life, with me working and trying to make a living.”


Enjoy a mostly sunny day with a high near 72 and light wind. At night, expect clouds and a low around 56 with a light wind.


In effect until Friday (Shavuot).

Metropolitan diary

Dear Diary:

My friend Sonja was born and raised in Minnesota. She moved to the West Village in 1965. Her first studio apartment remains her home today. She has enjoyed everything about Manhattan: the ballet, the opera, the museums, the people, the theater, The New Yorker.

Sonja is a retired teacher who commuted many years to a small town in central New Jersey. She was well known for her classroom’s décor. The ceiling was crisscrossed with strings, from which hung New Yorker covers spanning about 50 years.

These were the inspirations for her students’ creative writing assignments. Charles Addams appreciated the stories Sonja sent to him, with his covers as the subjects. He wrote a personal note to her, noting his favorite one.

Blossom Dearie was a neighbor, late in her life. I know this because Sonja checked up on her one day before she left for lunch with me.

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at newscinema.in

22 May, 2023, 9:40 am

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Monday, 22nd May 2023

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