The phone is ringing again. I so desperately want to hear the other side of that call, and yet it takes everything I have to reach my hand out and answer it. I know it’s another mother, trapped at the corner of Child Protective Services and Marijuana Prohibition, at her wit’s end about how to protect her children from being seized from her.
Many Americans openly voice an opinion that CPS is ineffective at best and corrupt at worst. So who exactly is being protected? You could ask any schoolteacher about their experiences with CPS, and they would tell you about a time they were worried about a student and the agency did nothing. In fact, across the country there are constantly stories about children who are murdered by parents after CPS had done nothing several times over. Recently, there was a horrific story from Detroit, MI about 2 children who were tortured for years, and when their beatings resulted in their death, the mother allegedly had their bodies stuffed into her deep freezer. As it turns out, CPS had been contacted by a teacher long before either of the children had died. Despite a CPS policy which states a follow-up must be made with every alleged victim of abuse, this time the agency claimed there was nothing they could do and did not initiate contact with the family. Evidently, CPS does not protect children from abuse.
Even more frustrating is the fact that the abuse doesn’t stop there. Children who are removed for whatever the reason, are far more likely to be sexually and physically abused by the foster family. Of course that doesn’t make every foster family bad, but there is an outrageous epidemic when statistics show that children are 6 times more likely to be killed in foster care than if they had stayed in the abusive home. It doesn’t seem that CPS is protecting these children from abuse either.
Yet every day, children are ripped away from loving parents to be placed into foster care. The reasons given most often are because the family was poor, the house was a mess, the gas was shut off, the parents use marijuana, the parent sought a second medical opinion, the child is treated holistically, there was a home birth, the child is homeschooled, and the list goes on. There is one phrase that sums up this list: “Anticipatory Neglect”.
With anticipatory neglect, the agency is free and clear to secure their jobs and income by testifying that a child might be harmed, then the child’s removal is approved. This new phrase has become an unlikely best friend to Child Protective Services. No longer are they required to show actual harm or abuse to a child, they only have to show some reason they believe the child could be harmed in the future.
The case of Baby Bailey is one of anticipatory neglect. Bailey was born into this world with no complications. She was a healthy weight and scored well on the APGAR scale. Her parents, Ashley and Tyler, fell in love with her immediately. With Bailey, they would get the second chance they were ready for. They looked forward to starting their young life as loving parents.
Tyler and Ashley had not always been ready for parenthood. It should come as no surprise that when Ashley became pregnant at the age of 16, the couple made some normal teenage decisions that made them ill-equipped to handle an infant. Like more than 20% of the teenage population, Ashley experimented with prescription pills in high school. As a result, her first child was born with some medical complications. CPS became involved right away and Ashley was quick to admit that she would not be able to best fulfill the child’s medical needs. She allowed him to be adopted by a family member, who still permits Ashley to see him regularly.
Shortly after high school, Ashley completely stopped the pills and she’s never looked back.
On the other hand, Tyler started have extreme migraines as a teenager, often so bad that they would lead to nausea and vomiting. He was prescribed several pain medications for an extended period of time, but they never seemed to take the edge off. He learned early on that marijuana was an effective alternative to the more dangerous pills, which had an undesirable effect on him anyway. Looking back, Ashley has said that she’s happy Tyler was using medical marijuana instead of pills because it wouldn’t have been good to have the temptation while going through her sobriety from prescription drugs. Tyler got his medical marijuana card early on and was able to benefit from its pain-relieving effects.
As they grew and matured throughout the next several years, the couple felt that it was time to start a little family. Their lives were headed in the right direction and they both were stable and secure enough in their strengths to leave their past behind them and open a new chapter.
As Bailey took form in her womb, Ashley started having severe nausea. The vomiting caused her to worry about the baby’s development. Dehydration can lead to malnutrition, confusion, seizures, and heart problems.
A study conducted in Jamaica by Dr. Melanie Dreher showed that there was no negative consequences related to marijuana use during pregnancy. Newborns with fetal marijuana exposure scored the same on APGAR and Brazelton tests within days of their birth. At one month old, the exposed newborns scored better on the Brazelton assessment, and, although not a significant difference, cannabis-exposed infants had slightly higher birthweights, than their non-exposed counterparts. Dr. Dreher voiced the opinion that cannabis can be very beneficial to curb nausea related to morning sickness without harmful side effects to the fetus.
Ashley decided to try cannabis for the purpose of alleviating her nausea and vomiting. She was finally able to keep down food and make sure her fetus got the nourishment necessary to grow and thrive. At five months along, she was able to stop the cannabis use because the nausea had subsided. However, when Bailey was born 4 months later, in September of 2014, the hospital collected a positive THC test from her meconium. Once again, CPS was called in to question Ashley and Tyler’s parenting abilities.
Even though Bailey had no medical problems and was clearly not harmed, Child Protective Services opened a case on the family immediately and took jurisdiction over the child without a second thought. They relied on the legal allowance of “anticipatory neglect” to fast-track the case through the system. The prior finding of the court and Ashley’s voluntary parental termination of her first child made it remarkably easy for the agency to file a petition for Bailey’s removal, even though child protection policies do not generally allow for removals when only prenatal marijuana use is a factor. The agency told the parents right away that Bailey would be removed, but they would have to wait for that time to come because there were no open foster care placements available.
When Bailey was 4 months old, CPS mandated a drug test from the parents. The agency suddenly decided to make a big deal about Tyler’s legal medical marijuana status. The court made a ruling that Tyler was to stop using his medical marijuana and it was at that time that Bailey was removed from their home.
Bailey has now been living in foster care for about 4 months, regardless of her parent’s compliance with every service and mandate the court has imposed on them, even despite the deterioration of Tyler’s health and his voter-sanctioned use of marijuana to treat his condition.
The family heads back to court on April 20th, 2015 to have their case reviewed in Bay County. They hope to reverse the judge’s decision to remove Bailey and the prohibition of Tyler’s medical use of marijuana. Support in the courtroom is welcomed and encouraged. The family wishes to hire attorney Joshua Covert, lead counsel from the “Baby Bree” case in 2013, and is looking for funding to be able to do so. They have an online fundraising campaign where you can donate here. Follow more of the story by going to their facebook page.