A mother smoked weed. New York placed her child in foster care.

A mother smoked weed.  New York placed her child in foster care.

Good morning. It’s Monday. We’ll look at the case of a Bronx woman who – legally – smoked marijuana before giving birth, only to have the city tell the hospital she shouldn’t take the baby home.

Nor did Rivers spend time with the baby in the first few days after giving birth, which was an important bonding time. She says she was allowed to meet the child on a daily basis, but only for a limited period of time.

The agency told Rivers, 34, that it was opening a neglect case and proceeding to euthanize the infant, who tested positive for marijuana at birth.

It 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 ongoing uncertainty among officials about how to treat marijuana now that it has been legalized. But Rivers’ case raises other questions that became clear when I asked him to explain what Rivers and the agency say.

The lawsuit says 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’ own activists have said an audit conducted in 2020 confirms what families and advocates have been saying for decades.

The audit — which the ACS did not release until compelled to do so under the Freedom of Information Act — surveyed several parents and advocates, as well as more than 50 Black and Hispanic frontline caseworkers and agency managers. 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 the lives of families.

Black families in New York City are seven times more likely than white families to be accused of child abuse, and their children are 13 times more likely to be removed.

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

Rivers said that she and her child were tested for drugs without her consent. Isn’t this unusual? And why did the doctors and nurses suspect she was using marijuana? Did he smoke in his room at the hospital?

She said that she was asked by a doctor or nurse during the birth if she had used drugs or alcohol and she replied that she had smoked marijuana several hours earlier. It is unclear why she was asked or whether this was standard practice at that hospital, BronxCare Health System, which did not answer my questions.

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

The hospital said that Rivers used to smoke marijuana 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 giving birth. Did the ACS say that exposure to marijuana harmed the child?

According to its lawsuit, ACS never alleged that TW was harmed. This is potentially important, as the ACS’ policy on marijuana states that a positive marijuana test in a child is not in itself grounds for removal—a separate finding is required that the marijuana caused “harm or risk of harm.” Is. The suit also states that the hospital did not treat the child for anything related to marijuana exposure.

Was her child taken because she already had a child welfare case? what does the agency say

It is not clear. In Rivera’s previous case seven years earlier, she had lost custody of her two older children for drug and alcohol use and for failing to receive medical care for her older son. But the suit notes that the ACS had already given approval for those older children to be put back in time for TW’s birth in August 2021.

The suit also states that both family court judges presiding over the TW case said the earlier case did not pose an imminent risk to TW

ACS may disagree. The judge who ordered TW returned to Rivers at six days old did so over the objections of the ACS, according to the suit.

For their part, ACS officials would not answer questions about the matter, citing privacy laws. They said that as a general policy, they do not remove children based solely on the parent’s use of marijuana and that they do so when investigating cases involving “parental drug/alcohol abuse.” They “assess the effect any abuse may have or may be imminent on the child.” Security.”

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

Rivers said the frequent surprise visits from ACS caseworkers were more than an annoyance. At the time of TW’s birth, she was doing hair work outside her apartment. There were occasional surprise home visits from ACS when she was with a client.

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

Others were postponed.

“Sometimes when ACS would pop up I would cancel my hair appointments and give them their money back,” she said. “It’s just interfering with my personal life, dealing with me and trying to make a living.”


Enjoy a mostly sunny day, with a high temperature near 72 and a light breeze. The night will be cloudy with light wind and the minimum temperature will be around 56 degrees.

alternate side parking

Effective until Friday (Shavuot).

  • migrant crisis fictional: The story became an instant, sensationalist one: Homeless veterans were being evicted from their makeshift hotel rooms north of New York City so that people arriving from the Mexican border could stay there. The problem was that the story was a sham.

  • mayor and president: Mayor Eric Adams has blamed President Biden for the influx of migrants, raising concerns from many Democrats but troubling Biden’s allies, who don’t want him to be publicly criticized lest That it would help Donald Trump or one of his Republican allies.

Metropolitan Diary

Dear Diary:

My friend Sonja was born and raised in Minnesota. She moved to the West Village in 1965. His first studio apartment is still his 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 lived in a small town in central New Jersey for many years. She was known for her class decorum. The ceiling was crisscrossed with wires from which New Yorker covers stretched for nearly 50 years.

These were the inspiration for the creative writing work of his students. Charles Addams appreciated the stories sent to him by Sonja, with her covers as subjects. He wrote her a personal note featuring her favorite note.

Blossom Deer was a neighbor, at the end of her life. I know this because Sonja checked on him the day before I went to lunch with him.

It’s hard for Sonya to get around these days. Bad knee, she says. She tells me about the angels living in her apartment. They are looking for him.

Sonja will soon be moving back to Minnesota to be closer to her family. If I could, I would light up the Empire State Building red (her favorite colour) on the eve of her departure.


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