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Oregon Court Of Appeals Rules Mother Who Tested Positive For Marijuana


Brandy Zink
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Oregon Court of Appeals rules mother who tested positive for marijuana

shouldn't lose kids

 

Published: Wednesday, July 28, 2010, 4:17 PM Updated: Wednesday, July

28, 2010, 4:52 PM

 

Helen Jung, The Oregonian

 

The state cannot take children away from a mother who tests positive for

marijuana use without evidence that shows her drug use endangers the

children, the Oregon Court of Appeals has ruled.

 

In a decision issued today, the court reversed a Marion County juvenile

court ruling that the state Department of Human Services had jurisdiction

over two children, a 19-month-old and a 6-month old. The state had argued

that the mother's marijuana use "presented a reasonable likelihood of harm

to her two children."

 

But the appeals court agreed with the mother's argument that the state

failed to provide any evidence connecting her behavior with risk to the

children.

 

The children and the mother are identified only by their initials in the

case.

 

The state first became involved with the children in October 2009 when it

received a report that a man was selling methamphetamine at the family's

home.

 

DHS workers visited the home and met the father, who appeared to be "under

the influence of a controlled substance." The agency later learned that the

father was a registered sex offender. The mother arrived home later and

denied using drugs.

 

At the time, the workers found that the home was clean, the children had

appropriate food to eat and they appeared "happy and healthy," the appeals

court wrote in its decision. A DHS worker also had testified that the mother

"appears to have appropriate parenting skills."

 

The parents agreed to have the two children stay with their maternal

grandmother while DHS checked to see whether the father had completed his

required sex offender treatment. During that time, a urinalysis from the

mother came back testing positive for marijuana.

 

The mother admitted using the drug at a party a week or two earlier but said

she did not use it frequently and never used it around the children. A test

taken a few weeks later came back negative for marijuana and other drugs.

 

But the state had trouble getting in touch with the mother, who did not have

a working phone and did not show up to a December 2009 meeting, according to

the appeals court decision. She eventually did meet with DHS but failed to

submit another urinalysis as requested.

 

It was "the accumulation of things" that led the juvenile court to conclude

that the mother had a chemical abuse problem and find that the state had

jurisdiction over the children.

 

But in reversing the decision, the appeals court said "the record lacks

evidence showing that mother's use of marijuana, her 'chemical abuse

problem' as found by the trial court, is a condition or circumstance that

poses any risk to her children. That evidence is necessary to establish

jurisdiction over the children."

 

The case goes back to the juvenile court, said Holly Telerant, attorney for

the mother. She declined to comment on where the children are living

currently. The Department of Human Services did not immediately have

comment.

 

-- Helen Jung

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