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1 Positive Drug Test and Your Children Will be Taken? California Law Under Fire

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posted 11:15 AM EST, Sun June 29, 2008
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1 Positive Drug Test and Your Children Will be Taken? California Law Under Fire © Photo: Gustty

A couple in LA have sued the County after their children were removed from the home after a single positive drug test result - a test they maintained, and ultimately proved, was wrong.

Cheila Herrera and her husband Jesus, of Antelope Valley are suing Los Angeles County for what they described as a "terrible" ordeal.

Just days after giving birth to a son, County officials stormed the couple's home demanding custody of their 20 month old daughter. At issue, a drug test for meth amphetamine that came up positive. The son, who was born prematurely and remained in hospital, had already been placed under County care.

The Herrera's watched helplessly as their children were taken away, and watched with increasing frustration and devastation as successive negative drug tests they took to prove their innocence were ignored by social workers.

They were ultimately cleared of any wrong doing, and their children were returned. They have sued the county for an unspecified amount. They have always maintained that they had never taken any drugs.

California has implemented a system of urine testing new mothers for drugs at hospitals, and although a single positive drug test is not intended to result in the removal of children from the parents, in practice, experts say that this is what too often happens.

Experts say that it is easier for everyone involved to rely on the quantitative evidence of a positive drug test to determine actions, rather than the more subjective but comprehensive, human evaluation of the situation.

Compounding the problem is a situation where confirmational testing is not mandated. National drug exposed infant expert, Dr. Barry Lester or Brown University, said of the California system "The system sounds problematic ... because they are doing urine-only screens, and if they are not doing confirmation tests, they are going to have a lot of false positives."

Describing a situation of minimal checks and balances, training, regulation and a knee jerk removal of kids from parents, L. Wallace Pate, the couple's attorney said, "It's like the wild wild west out here."

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