Vice Squad
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Another Drug War Casualty

The Chicago Tribune (registration required) reported a tragic story today about the death of a Chicago-area baby. The child was 7 months old.

The girl died while in the custody of her aunt. She was taken away from her mother at birth and placed with the aunt because she was born with cocaine in her system. Four other children in the custody of the aunt were removed from the home after the baby's death. The cause of the baby's death is still unknown, but there were no drugs in her system.

Taking cocaine while pregnant is certainly a terrible thing to do to an unborn child - so is smoking and not getting proper nutrition. The state does not forcibly remove newborns from their mothers though for the latter two offenses.

It is not always fair to second-guess child welfare workers after a decision has resulted in tragedy. However, it is fair to question a knee-jerk policy that mandates blanket solutions to complex problems. Just because a baby is born with cocaine in its system does not mean that the best thing for it is to be removed from its mother's care. There may have been other alternatives that could have prevented tragedy in this case.


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