Parents lose child custody rights over a poppy seed bagel

For Colorado parents, the thought of losing their child is the stuff of nightmares. After all of the time, expense, care and energy placed into our children, having them removed from our care is perhaps the worst experience that a parent can face. One family has recently come through such a child custody ordeal, and their story should serve as a cautionary tale for parents across the nation.

The nightmare began with the routine delivery of a baby girl. While at the hospital, the mother was given drug tests to screen for the presence of drugs within her bloodstream. The results came back positive for opiates. The hospital testing threshold for a positive result was 300 nanograms/mL or higher. The threshold for federal employment screening is 2,000 nanograms/mL.

As a result of the drug testing, police officers and local Children and Youth Services workers came to the family's home and took the newborn from her parent's care. For the next five days, the parents fought to prove that the low levels of opiates found in the mother's blood were the result of her consumption of a poppy seed bagel the day before she went into labor. The mother had no history of drug use, and the newborn child did not test positive for any form of drugs. The child was returned to her parents five days later.

The American Civil Liberties Union became involved in this case, and the matter went before a court. As a result, the family recently won a settlement in the amount of $143,500, to be paid by the hospital and the county child protective services department. While the family was successful in having their child returned to their care, their story serves as a reminder that there are a wide range of child custody challenges that even a united family can face, in Colorado and across the nation.

Source:, "Policies Change as Part of Poppy Seed Child Custody Settlement," Mark Nootbaar, July 2, 2013

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