Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When Testing Your Toddlers for Drugs Goes Wrong

We had a strict no-drugs policy at the JasDye household. Beginning from when she was old enough to recognize shapes, I trained my daughter to know the dangers of illicit drugs and how to avoid them.

We went through in-home "Baby Just Say No!" lectures and role playing seminars. I taught her about the dangers of the smack and the H and the X. I repeatedly told her, in no uncertain terms, that if one of her playmates offers her dope, that is no real playmate in the first place. "Just crawl away, honey. Just crawl away."

But then one day I decided that even the strongest rhetoric and fear tactics may not work. So I did what any loving, nurturing parent would hope to do in my situation. I started mandating random drug tests.

She passed the screenings for cocaine and PCP just fine. I was relieved at how this was going, even as she was crying from the needles (the urine samples were easy though. We just took her diapers and squeezed them into a tube). Anything to make our home a safe and happy place.

When the results came back from the marijuana test, however, we were stunned. She turned up positive. I thought it might have been the corrupting influence of our downstairs hipster neighbors. I wanted to believe that there was some logical explanation for my baby's lapse in judgment. Rather than just call the cops on her, I decided to confront her myself first.

One day, when she got up from her nap, I decided the time was right for a powwow. I had her sit down, and then told her the findings from the test. I asked her where she got the nerve to bring the wacky tobbacky into our sacred home. Her response was unexpected.

"I got it from YOU!"

And at the time, I didn't know what she meant because I never used nor bought weed myself. And also she couldn't quite talk yet.

But then recently this report was brought to my attention. Turns out that infants can get positive marijuana reports in their urine samples from baby shampoo and bathing products. Oops.

So, Jocelyn, if you're reading this, daddy's sorry for turning you in to the fuzz.

Prisoner 4100

On a serious note, some hospitals, according to the Yahoo story, perform drug tests on up to 40% of newborns, looking for trace amounts of drugs that may have leaked into the child during pregnancy. The study was done because they found a large amount of children were turning up positive for marijuana. And while I hope to God that nobody smokes anything while pregnant - or near a pregnant person - I also believe in justice and not ripping families apart. If the hospitals are going to do these tests, they are going to need to check for false negatives. If they find those tests to be too expensive, well, since when has expense ever stopped them before? But even beyond that, the idea of taking a child away from his or her parent(s) because of such use is harmful and negligent in itself. From the article:
To remove children from their home at birth because of a positive marijuana test is immediately and inexorably harmful, says Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. "Even when the test is accurate, there is no evidence that smoking pot endangers children," he says, adding, "There is overwhelming evidence that needless foster care endangers children.”
Wexler explains that the odds of abuse and neglect are higher in foster care than they would be at home for the babies. “These infants are being taken from homes where there is no evidence of abuse, and placed in a situation where the odds of abuse are at least 1 in 4,” he says. "The odds of this kind of separation doing emotional damage are nearly 100%. Children risk enormous emotional trauma when they are torn from their mothers during a crucial period for infant-parent bonding.”
One study of infants who were exposed to cocaine in the womb found that their physical growth and development increased when they remained with their biological mothers, compared with being removed from the home because of maternal drug use. “For the foster children, being taken from their mothers was more toxic than the cocaine,” Wexler says.
You would think the people in charge of handing us our kids would be more responsible, no?

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