navigating the legal + child welfare systems
Because substance use is stigmatized, Substance Use Disorders are treated differently from any other health condition.
Disclosing substance use and seeking appropriate medical care can lead to loss of autonomy, freedom, and parental rights.
We oppose punitive responses to substance use and
advocate for interventions that promote parenting potential, support infants' healthy development, and are rooted in evidence.
If you are being investigated...
DO NOT SAY ANYTHING UNTIL YOU TALK TO A LAWYER.
Comply only with requirements for administrative investigation:
Don’t say more than you need to.
Don’t try to help investigators.
Know the limits to criminal investigation:
Don't let anyone into your house without a warrant.
If someone insists on searching, say "I do not consent to a search."
- Birth Rights Bar Association’s
Have a Plan: Top Recommendation for Staying Safe Legally
If you need help understanding or navigating the legal
and child welfare systems we recommend these organizations:
National Advocates for Pregnant Women (NAPW) visit their website
The New York Times Series: A Woman's Rights
Factsheet: Understanding CAPTA and State Obligations
Birth Rights Bar Association
Elephant Circle visit their website
Movement for Family Power (MFP) visit their website
Campaign: Resist Surveillance - Reimagine Support
Family Separation in the Medical Setting: The Need for Informed Consent
It’s afternoon on the Monday after the Fourth of July. My daughters, ages five and six, sit perched on the edges of their beds. They are surrounded by a wealth of toys. Stuffed animals, dolls and furniture are strewn across the scene—I’ve lost count of the Elsas—and the shelves are bursting with doll clothes and accessories, animal figurines, board games, puppets, stray crayons and stickers, hair clips and jewelry gaudy with glitter. And yet, they are ignoring this childhood treasury, both sitting with shoulders slumped, their bodies tensed and uncertain, their eyes round and distant.
“I wish I could live with you, Mommy,” says my littlest.
“Me too,” says her sister. “Is that natural?”
I say nothing, wanting to gather her in my arms, and Littlest answers instead. “Yes. That’s normal, living with Mommy and visiting Grandma. That’s normal.”
“I want to be with you always, I love you both so much,” I tell them. I don’t know how to make them know, to really know and feel, that I am leaving because I have to, not because I want to.
When considering a urine drug test (UDT) to screen for substance use
Ask Yourself: What does pee tell you?
The Answer: Not a lot.
Is there any class of people who receive more stigma, who get more shit and abuse for using drugs, than mothers? Probably not! For whatever reason, society really looks down upon mothers who use drugs. And too often, Child Protective Services use evidence of drug use, even prescribed drugs like methadone or buprenorphine, as a pretense for seizing children from parents, even when there are no signs of abuse or neglect.
At Narcotica, we believe in safe drug use no matter who it is. On this episode, Troy, Zach and Chris talk about how stigma against drug use is contributing to an overloaded foster care system, how so-called ‘fetal assault laws’ are used to control women and pregnant people, and the various ways the war on drugs can be used to dehumanize parents.