For Florida parents, the most frightening experience imaginable is the loss of their child. Whether through illness, catastrophe or natural disaster, parents have a deeply ingrained fear of losing the things that they love the most. Unfortunately, there are cases in which a child is wrongly removed from a parent’s care by the very entities created to protect children. A recent settlement concludes one family’s child custody nightmare, and serves as a cautionary tale to all American parents.
The matter began when a mother checked into the hospital to give birth. The hospital ran a blood screen, and detected a very low level of opiates within the mother’s bloodstream. The level observed was 300 nanograms per milliliter. Federal workplace testing standards look for a minimum level of 2,000 nanograms per milliliter. The infant did not test positive for the presence of drugs within her system.
The mother and child went home without incident. However, three days after the birth, police and social workers arrived at the family home to take custody of the infant. This began a frantic five day period during which the family struggles to prove to authorities that there was no illegal drug use to investigate. The parents insisted that the very low level of opiates was the result of the mother ingesting a poppy seed bagel the day before she went into labor.
This family was able to regain child custody rights to their baby girl, after which they sued the hospital and the local department of social services. That lawsuit was recently settled for nearly $144,000. In addition to the financial portion of the agreement, the hospital named in the suit agrees to make a change in policy that staffers will only notify county authorities when an infant tests positive for drugs. This may save other families from having to go through the same trauma in the future. While this story has a positive ending, the case should remind parents in Florida and across the nation that child custody challenges are not always the result of a divorce.