The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit in Pittsburgh federal court today on behalf of a New Castle couple whose newborn daughter was seized and held for five days by Lawrence County Children and Youth Services (LCCYS) after the mother failed a drug test because she had eaten a poppy seed bagel before she was admitted.
According to the lawsuit, Jameson Hospital, where Elizabeth Mort gave birth to Isabella, uses a much lower threshold for a positive drug screening than federal guidelines, leading to a higher rate of false positives.
ACLU attorney Sara Rose says the day that Mort and her fiance Alex Rodriguez brought the baby home, 2 caseworkers and 2 police officers showed up with a court order to take the infant. Rose says CYS later admitted it was a false positive but still did not return the child for 5 days even though Mort denied ever using illegal drugs......
“No parent should have to go through what this couple did. This case is a tragic illustration of the harm that can result when the government removes a child based only on the accusation of a third party and without any independent investigation.”
The baby's mother said that when Isabella was gone the family was at a loss of words.....“I couldn't stop crying. Alex just didn't even know how to be himself. It felt like our heart was ripped in pieces. The most important person was missing, and we didn't know when we would see her again.”
Rose says it's a civil liberties matter because it's a county policy and not an isolated issue. She said the ACLU had a previous client who lost her child for 2 months and other lawyers have told them that this happens about a dozen times a year in Lawrence County.
Rose says the suit asks the court to declare Lawrence County's policy of automatically removing newborns from parents based solely on a prenatal drug test without any investigation violates parents' rights and they are asking for damages "whatever a jury thinks is appropriate."