NAPW and Allies Speaking Out

This week has been a big one for getting hard issues discussed in serious ways. Today, the newspaper of record for South Carolina ran a commentary by Barry Lester, PhD. and Sue Veer entitled A Measure of Justice for Regina McKnight. Starting on Sunday the L.A. Daily News began running a series about child welfare policies that routinely remove newborns from low-income women based on unconsented to and unconfirmed positive drug tests. This series by Troy Anderson, and entitled Drug war on moms. Toddler, newborn wrongly torn from family in stepped-up screening of pregnant women begins this way:

Awakened by late-night pounding and his doorbell ringing, Palmdale resident Jesus Bejarano found a social worker and two sheriff's deputies demanding he turn over his 20-month-old daughter, Kelly.

The social worker said Bejarano's 29-year-old wife, Cheila Herrera, had tested positive for amphetamines and PCP at Antelope Valley Hospital after giving birth to the couple's son a week earlier.
Their son, Jesse, who was born prematurely and was still at the hospital, had already been placed in protective custody.

"It was terrible," Herrera said of the Feb. 14 ordeal. "It was pretty shocking to us. We didn't know what to do or say. We called my mom, saying, `They are taking our baby away.'

"We started calling friends, but no one we know has gone through something like this. We were crying. We thought, oh my God, they took our baby."

Last month, the couple sued Los Angeles County government for unspecified damages, saying Herrera had never used drugs and the social worker ignored a battery of expensive tests that proved the initial drug-test results were wrong.

Experts say the case highlights widespread problems with California's system of drug-testing pregnant mothers, using urine-screening tests that produce false-positives up to 70percent of the time, and inconsistent compliance by hospitals with a state law designed to regulate the process.

Sidebar stories include: Seized baby dies in foster care; False Positives are common in drug tests on new moms;; and Hospital staff more likely to screen minority mothers.

NAPW is proud to be quoted in the story and to have played a large role, along with many of our allies, in getting these counterproductive, discriminatory, and costly policies exposed.