October 16, 2010

Baby Removed from Home after Mother Eats Poppy Seeds




A Pennsylvania House Bill 2760, passed three years ago, allows hospitals to test a mother’s  blood to protect newborns.

  • Children and Youth Services removed Elizabeth Mort’s three day old child from her New Castle, Pennsylvania, home because the mother tested positive to opiate use.
  • The ACLU believes Jameson Hospital and agency workers made a judgment without thoroughly investigating.
  • Mort’s positive test was due to her ingestion of poppy seeds, which can influence drug tests.

     Jameson Hospital may have gone too far by failing to consider what Mort might have eaten. (read Can Poppy Seed Ingestion Affect Drug Tests?)

     “One thing I think is a violation is the fact that Lawrence County CYS immediately got a court order without the parents present to remove a newborn baby based solely on the hospital’s report of a positive drug test,” said Sara Rose of the ACLU, noting that CYS may have violated the law.


     This isn’t the first time Lawrence County’s Children and Youth Services overreached their powers.

     While living in New Castle in the latter 1980s I came to know a woman I’ll call Sylvia. While five of her children were removed from her home and placed for adoption she remarried. A child was born from this union.

     I was closely involved with Sylvia, and worked with her, teaching her to overcome a number of problems. She was a good “student,” and had the Children and Youth Services helped her in this way, she would not have needed me. Instead, they antagonized her.

     Following the birth of her child, Sylvia was, if anything, overprotective and caring. She was reluctant to let anyone hold the child, and never left the child with a babysitter.

     One day she told me that a policeman had been at her home in the middle of the night, aiming his flashlight into the windows of her house, waking her and her husband. Allegedly, someone had called the children’s agency and reported that the child was left alone in the house.

     Over the next few weeks, police appeared at her house at all times of the day and night, repeating the same message that had been sent to the agency: the child was left alone in the home.

     One evening, around 10:30, I received a call from Sylvia. A caseworker was at her door with papers to remove her child because the child was being left home alone. Fortunately, it was the same caseworker that was assigned to the foster baby in my care. Sylvia put me on the phone with him.

     “Did you find the child alone in the house?” I asked him.

     “No,” he said.

     “Nor was the child alone in the house at any other time,” I continued. “I have been keeping close tabs on Sylvia and the baby. She has told me when the police were at her house, and often she was at the church or my house at the time, babe in arms. She also called me each time the police have been at her house. She was there with the child. Never has the child been left alone in that house, or anywhere else.”

     The caseworker left, leaving the baby with Sylvia, who by now was reaching the point of such over-protectiveness that that response could harm the child.

     I finally contacted the Children and Youth Services’ state director. Previously, I had contacted him about numerous situations so many times that we knew each other’s voice. He seemed to respect me.

     I explained the situation to him.

     “If Children and Youth receive a complaint about a child, they do have to investigate,” he told me.

     I acknowledged that he was correct, but stated that something had to be done.

     “The complaint is always that the baby is left home alone. Could not the agency call the home, and if an adult answered, then there would be proof that the child was not alone in the house? I would be intimidated if police officers were constantly showing up and shining flashlights in my windows in the middle of the night, or knocking on my door during the day and evening.”

     He agreed with me.

     Funny thing. After my contact at the state director, the appearance of police officers and agency workers quit. Not even one more visit was made. I wonder if the persons calling in the complaints knew I contacted the state director.

     Or perhaps there never were any calls to the agency. Perhaps the agency instigated the appearances of the police and caseworker.

     You be the judge.

~~ ~ ~~~~~~~~~


Sara Rose, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, said Lawrence County Children and Youth Services didn’t bother to check previous drug tests that came back negative during Elizabeth Mort’s pregnancy. Caseworkers also didn’t interview Mort, her fiance Alex Rodriguez, her obstetrician or even hospital staff.

“If Lawrence County had done even the slightest investigation, they would have realized Elizabeth Mort hadn’t done drugs while she was pregnant,” Rose said. “In fact, the only thing she was guilty of was eating a poppy-seed bagel.”

The county agency came to the same conclusion and dropped its case after performing a rudimentary investigation, she added.

“It seems like they could have done that before they caused all of this trauma to the family,” Rose said.

Federal case law requires a government agency to prove a child has been abused or is in danger of being abused before seeking an emergency custody order, she noted.

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Can Poppy Seed Ingestion Affect Drug Tests?

CHILDREN LEFT HOME ALONE (or in cars alone)



Fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath




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  1. what a pity for this kid…..

    Comment by bebek — October 18, 2010 @ 5:45 pm | Reply

  2. The thing with these caseworker’s and that specific department is this: If they need the money or need to make their quota they find reason to get involved, with and take falsely accused cases, and blow it all out of proportion! Yet, when they don’t need the money, or cases, or need to meet their quotas; they do totally the opposite, though they of course would deny this! I saw this first hand in my own life, and in other’s as well! I know it is not fair, but, it isn’t really a fair system at all! They took what was supposed to be used initally for the good of all mankind and all those involved; and made it into totally the opposite! Granted there are times when they should step in and interfere; most times when they shouldn’t they do and when they should they don’t always do so! I guess, it goes back to what I had mentioned above about the quota’s thing! Anyhow, it is a good thing what you did to protect the innocent person above! I wish someone would have been there to prevent the false accusations I had gone through with my son! They do (the system and the Child-welfare departments may sometimes admit when they are wrong; but, it is usually done after the damage of seperating loved ones and interfering with that relationship and causing damage in said relationship!). Thankfully, it was not the case with the lady and her baby, in which you were talking about (the case you were talking about, here on this web-site!).

    Comment by Julia — October 19, 2010 @ 5:21 pm | Reply

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