Pot=child abuse or neglect?

I hope there’s more to the story in these cases and child welfare’s reaction is not as stupid as this article makes it sound:

The police found about 10 grams of marijuana, or about a third of an ounce, when they searched Penelope Harris’s apartment in the Bronx last year. The amount was below the legal threshold for even a misdemeanor, and prosecutors declined to charge her. But Ms. Harris, a mother whose son and niece were home when she was briefly in custody, could hardly rest easy.

The police had reported her arrest to the state’s child welfare hot line, and city caseworkers quickly arrived and took the children away.

Her son, then 10, spent more than a week in foster care. Her niece, who was 8 and living with her as a foster child, was placed in another home and not returned by the foster care agency for more than a year. Ms. Harris, 31, had to weather a lengthy child neglect inquiry, though she had no criminal record and had never before been investigated by the child welfare authorities, Ms. Harris and her lawyer said.

“I felt like less of a parent, like I had failed my children,” Ms. Harris said. “It tore me up.”

Hundreds of New Yorkers who have been caught with small amounts of marijuana, or who have simply admitted to using it, have become ensnared in civil child neglect cases in recent years, though they did not face even the least of criminal charges, according to city records and defense lawyers. A small number of parents in these cases have even lost custody of their children.

I don’t know what to think of it. Maybe I’m naive, but I find it hard to believe that child welfare workers are on the hunt for new cases. And, at least in Michigan, workers seem to go out of their way to avoid removing children from the home.

Whatever the case, the idea of investigating for child abuse or neglect on the basis of marijuana use is stupid, particularly when 41% of Americans over the age of 12 have used it.

2 thoughts on “Pot=child abuse or neglect?

  1. Taking kids is a drastic measure, and I wouldn’t doubt that it’s been abused, before, but I don’t trust that this article is thorough or impartial. For starters *why* were police called and inclined to search Ms. Penelope’s apartment? And was a small amount of pot *all* they found? The article doesn’t say. The article does say that more white people smoke pot than black people but more black parents have their children taken away. This is not an apples to apples comparison – what are the proportion of white pot smoking parents to black pot smoking parents? That is the relevant statistic. The issue is probably poverty, which overlaps uncomfortably with race. If you’re buying pot in a bad neighborhood you are likely to be buying it from someone who also sells crack and will have sex with anything that moves in exchange for drugs, as opposed to middle class college kids who score a bag from that guy in their anthropology class. Poverty + drug use = bad situation for kids. I’m sure the fine progressive folks at the NYT would like to think otherwise, but I doubt many of them have spent much time in the ghetto.

    1. I don’t know what’s happening there, but I’m guessing it my favorite Mencken quote applies: For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong.

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