Imagine you are a young mother. You've given birth to a healthy baby boy. Alone in your hospital room, you cuddle with your son while waiting for discharge paperwork to get completed. You wish your husband could be there, but money is tight, and taking more time off work would be irresponsible right now. Instead of a nurse, an investigator from Child Protective Services comes into your room and informs you that "someone" has expressed "concern" about your "possible" drug use. Terrified, you immediately submit to a field drug screen which, of course, comes up negative because you are not using drugs. You also authorize CPS to see results of your newborn's drug screen. After all this cooperation, you are informed that you will not be able to take your baby home because CPS does not feel assured you will not use drugs. In other words, you are being asked to prove the non existence of a future event, and if you can't, strangers will take you two day old nursing infant away.
This was what happened to my adult daughter ten days ago. She called me, terrified. Since I had kids at home and my husbands office was five minutes from the hospital, I sent him over. After some tense negotiation, and no time given to contact legal representation, the best we could get was for CPS to let me take my grandson home rather than a foster home. His mother would only be allowed with him if I stayed in the same room, and she could not sleep over. My son in law was told he cannot take custody of his son because his judgement is suspect since he married a possible drug addict. (The one who came up clean on the drug screen, remember?) Our family is now all lawyered up with an expert in such cases, and CPS is not pleased.
So instead of just getting my autistic son ready for the transition to middle school, or any of the other parenting of the three children still at home, I'm up every two hours trying to force a bottle on a newborn who wants to be nursed. I'm trying to comfort my children who are justifiably traumatized, but in truth, I'm traumatized as well. I'm under a microscope, and like many on the spectrum, I've never handled being judged well. My own diagnosis is another stressor. Given the ill informed nature of this system, I fear if they knew I was autistic, they would be looking for ways to take my minor children away too. It would seem unreasonable, but given the rest of the situation, unreasonable is apparently the norm. I live in a county with one of the highest rates of child removal in the country. If you have ever done drugs of any kind or are accused of such, and you are not wealthy, they will remove your children and sort it out later, but physical abuse is almost never a cause for removal.
It took four days to get permission for my daughter and son in law to sleep over. It's a step in the right direction, but now we have four adults and four children living in our smallish 1950's ranch style home. School starts tomorrow, and I get to meet the special ed director with an infant and two year old in tow.
Our next step is the hair follicle drug testing that CPS said they didn't want, but changed their mind once the baby's blood test came back drug free. Since CPS might take weeks, we're paying for that as well. The legal wrangling to clear my daughter's name may take months, but hopefully, by the time my grandson is a month old, he will finally sleep in his own home in the bassinet lovingly waiting for him.
It scares me to think of all the other parents who don't have a family member with connections and money to find and pay for legal representation. When this is done, we've vowed to take steps to change this system so others like my daughter don't go through this hell.
Hopefully then, the nightmares will end, and I can go back to taking joy in my life without looking over my shoulder.