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Unintended Consequences

by Ned Wicker
(Wisconsin)

The Associated Press reported recently on the death of a baby boy who died because his mother’s breast milk was laced with Xanax, methadone and Opana. The woman, 32-year-old Sarah Ann Stephens, had been warned five months prior about the dangers of contaminating her breast milk, but sadly ignored them.

According to the AP story, a child advocacy worker from Sacramento (CA) County criticized Sacramento County’s response to the situation and it seems it took three months for the county to even respond to the initial reports. This was even after tests showed the baby was exposed to drugs.

Safety plan should have been in place?

In September of last year little four month-old Ryder Salmen was brought to the hospital emergency room because he was lethargic. Social workers assessed that the baby was at risk and said a safety plan had to be put in place to protect the child. Moreover, this plan had to be in place in order for the mother to retain custody of her baby. But reports showed that no safety plans were approved until three months after the social worker created it.

Just because a baby is at risk, just because the mother is a known regular drug user, and just because a social worker submitted a safety plan to protect the baby doesn’t mean that government will do anything at all. The county government passed the buck on this one and a baby is dead.

Mother ignored advice

However, the real bottom line to this tragedy is the mother’s conscious decision to ignore medical advice and use drugs anyway. After the fact, she was eventually charged with murder and two counts of child endangerment. So what? It’s too late. What if the baby had been taken away and mom was put into treatment? It seems we allow people to make terrible decisions, county government doesn’t follow-up on its plans or they pass the buck, and the baby dies.

There were two risk assessments done in Ryder’s case, and neither got any action. Child endangerment? In this country we go way out of our way to protect the rights of parents, and in this case, the woman was an addict and putting her baby in serious jeopardy, yet nothing is done. Now that the baby is dead we take legal action. Is the life of a baby not worth taking positive action when the obvious is placed under the nose of even the most under-motivated county employee? This is infuriating.

Addicts NEED treatment!

People who use drugs improperly need treatment. Moms who are warned about the dangers of using opioids and breast feeding, because they are known drug users, can’t be trusted to exercise their good judgment. This is just common sense. Treatment is a lot less expensive then long, drawn-out legal battles and court cases.

We turn to the legal system to punish addicts, and as stupid, uncaring and insensitive as this woman was in killing her child, she was also sick and under the power and control of a dreadful disease. She is guilty as charged, but there are contributing circumstances and there at one time was a far less costly solution. Mom may not have liked it, but her baby would be alive.

Addicted parents are not capable of caring for their children. The tainted breast milk is one incident. There are times when addicts let their children overheat and die in cars while they go to the bar.

Parents drive under the influence and get into accidents and the child dies. Parents fall asleep on the couch while smoking and the house burns. Parents sleep with their babies and roll over on them and kill them. Non addicted people don’t necessarily do these kinds of things, but addicted parents are far more apt to kill their children. In the moment they have no idea what they are doing, because they can’t reason.

But they don't have to get treatment

The addict has to use and nothing is going to stop that short of getting them into a good treatment program and putting in the necessary hard work. But legally they don’t have to. That’s a huge flaw in the system. You want your child? Go to treatment, otherwise you will lose your child.

We make laws in every state. In the case of this little baby, the laws were meaningless because there was no action.

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- Matthew 7:7-8






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