By: Terry Martinez
The threat of Child Protective Services destroying your family by taking your children is real.Â Â In California, 20% of children will have contact with CPS at least once between the ages of 1-7 and 180,000 children are in contact with CPS each day. (1)
In San Diego County last year,Â 51,821 children were reported to CPS for investigation by a variety of people whichÂ included mandatory reporters who are obligated by law to report all suspicions of abuse, friends, neighbors, lawyers, coaches and the list goes on and on. (2)
With pressure to â€˜err on the side of childrenâ€™ because of a few horror stories of extreme abuse that make the news, CPS removes far too manyÂ children from their parents.Â In fact, allegations of physical or sexual abuse were the reason for removal of only 14% of the 69,000 Californian children in fostered care in 2008, while 80% were taken because of amorphous claims of neglect or the possibility of neglect. (1)(2)
The policy of removing children for neglect continues despite studies over the past two decades showing that children fare better and are generally safer at home with their parents than in foster care and group homes. (3) Children in foster care are reported to be almost twice as likely to die of abuse then at home, 2 times more likely to be sexually abused and 3 times more likely to be physically abused than the general population.Â Group homes are reported to be much less safe than foster care once child on child abuse is factored in. (4)
Medical Marijuana consumers and users of street drugs are in increased danger of contact with CPS, and they should take steps to â€˜CPS proofâ€™ their home to help insure that their children will remain safe and out of CPSâ€™ hands.
This guide is not guaranteed to stop CPS from taking your children and should not be considered legal advice. It is directed to the Medical Marijuana patient, but others can adapt these ideas to their specific situation.Â Ultimately, you should use your own judgment in how to best protect your children.
CPS proof your home
You may have the legal right to use and grow Medical Marijuana, but CPS and Child Dependency Courts do not care about parentsâ€™ rights or interests, they only consider the childrenâ€™s interests.Â The fact that your medicine is legal will not protect your family.Â Alcohol use, which is legal and far more socially accepted than marijuana consumption, has been used as an excuse to remove children from their parentsâ€™ custody.
Patients should be very careful about how they grow, store, and use their medicine. To help protect your family, it must be obvious that Medical Marijuana is not anywhere your children can see it, eat it, or breathe it in.Â Treat your Medical Marijuana like prescription medicine that is radioactive.
General Things You Can Do
1. Keep your house very cleanâ€¦clean the bathroom, do the dishes, keep your dirty clothes in one neat pile.
2. Get all of your cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and household and grow chemicals up and out of the reach of your children.
3. Child proof everything that can be child proofed based upon your childrenâ€™s ages.Â Make your attempts obvious and take pictures of your child proofing.
4. Tell family, friends, and the other parent that you no longer medicateâ€¦statistically, these people make up to 19% of the reports to CPS. (1)
5. Think twice before taking a field sobriety test.
6. Do not let the CPS agent intimidate you into signing up for any voluntary programs.
When talking to a CPS agent, remember they have almost unlimited power, so be very nice but donâ€™t offer information, and if you decide to talk to the agent and are asked these questions, tell the truth which should be:
1. That you never medicate when the children are present and that you are never medicated when you are caring for the children, that during those timesÂ you handle your illness with over the counter medication or other as prescribed by your doctor, but not with prescription pain medications.
3. That you did not use marijuana prior to being prescribed it. If there is irrefutable evidence that you did, down play your use.
4. That you did not use marijuana while pregnant or nursing.
1. Do not smoke anywhere in your home with your children present.
2. Do not leave any medicine anywhere a child can get it or where someone can imagine your child can get it.Â A single locked door is not enough.Â Put it in a locked room and in a locking cabinet or box up high.Â If your kids are young, also put up a baby gate and use a door knob barrier.
3. If you use a bong or other smoking tool, only have one and keep it locked up.
1. Get a 2nd fridge to keep your edibles in and lock it with a real refrigerator lock from Lowes or Home Depot (not the cheapie child proof locks).Â Keep it in a room that is locked.
2. If you canâ€™t afford a 2nd fridge, put your medicine in a locking box (they have 3in x 5in locking boxes at Staples for $10) or in a locking money bag and put a real lock on the outside of the fridge.Â Or better yet, donâ€™t store them in the fridge, but in a locked room in a locked box out of reach and out of sight.
3. If you make your own edibles, have dedicated pots and cooking tools that are only for marijuana.Â Hand wash the tools outside using a disposable washing tool, and store in a locked room.
Growing in your home
1. Install a metal screen door from Lowes or Home Depot with locks.Â It is not enough to merely lock the door on your grow room, but do that too.Â Block out the screen part so it cannot be seen through. Hide the keys where your children cannot get them.Â If your kids are too young to open doorsâ€¦do it anyway.Â If you have young kids, put door knob barriers on the doors.
2. Put all grow chemicals, even organic ones, into a locked cabinet that is off the floor and out of reach in your double locked grow room.
3. Have a fire extinguisher in your grow room, or attached to the wall outside the grow room in a child safe manner.
4. Have an abundance of smoke detectors in the room and around your home.
5. Have a system to get the air cleaned so there is no marijuana smell.
6. Do anything else you can think of to child proof your grow room.
7. When you go to dry your medicine, do everything you can to hide it from the childrenâ€™s sight, access, and smell.
8. When you clean your medicine, use dedicated tools that are locked away when not in use, and dispose of the all excess plant matter immediatelyâ€¦do not put it off.Â Treat any excess plant matter that you keep around like it is useable medicineâ€¦keep it locked up.
Growing in your yard
1. Hide your garden with a tall fence, with locks on any gates.
2. Keep you chemicals locked up and out of reach.Â Behind your locked gate is not enough.
Remember there are no guarantees when dealing with CPS, but hopefully these tips will make your family more secure.
1.Â “Facts at a Glance 4-20-09.” California Health and Human Services. CA Child Welfare Council, 20 Apr. 2009. Web. www.chhs.ca.gov.
2.Â “Child Welfare Dynamic Report System.” Center for Social Services Research. Ca Dept of Social Services/UC Berkeley, Jan. 2009. Web. www.cssr.berkeley.edu/ucb_childwelfare.
3.Â Doyle Jr. PhD, James J. “Child Protection and Child Outcomes: Measuring the Effects of Foster Care.” Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 2007. Web. www.mit.edu.
4.Â “Foster Care vs. Family Preservation: The Track Record on Safety And Well-Being.” National Coalition for Child Protection Reform. 4 Nov. 2007. Web. www.nccpr.org.
5.Â “Study Finds that Caring for Fostered Youth Past Age 18 Improves their Transition to Adulthood.” Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Chapin Hall Center for Children, 12 Dec. 2007. Web. jimcaseyyouth.org.
6.Â Mecca, Frank J. “Funding Child Welfare Services in California.” County Welfare Directors Association of America. 14 Apr. 2008. Web. cwda.org.