They Followed Doctors’ Orders. The State Took Their Babies.

They Followed Doctors’ Orders. The State Took Their Babies.

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

Medications like Suboxone help pregnant women safely treat addiction. But in many states, taking them can trigger investigations by child welfare agencies that separate mothers from their newborns. This week, we tell the story of one young mother who thought she was doing the right thing by taking her prescription, only to be reported to the state of Arizona and investigated for child abuse and neglect. 

Reveal’s Shoshana Walter starts off by introducing us to Jade Dass, who was taking Suboxone to treat her addiction to opioids before she became pregnant. Scientific studies and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that taking addiction treatment medications, such as Suboxone and methadone, during pregnancy leads to the best outcomes for both mothers and babies. But after Dass delivered a healthy daughter, the hospital reported her to the Arizona Department of Child Safety. 

Next, Walter explores why women like Dass are being investigated for using addiction-treatment medications during pregnancy. In response to the crack and opioid epidemics, state and federal legislators enacted laws that inadvertently created a dragnet for women like Dass who are following a doctor’s orders to treat addiction. To understand the scope of the dragnet, Walter, data reporter Melissa Lewis and a team of Reveal researchers and lawyers filed 100 public records requests, putting together the first-ever tally of how often women are reported to child welfare agencies for taking prescription drugs during pregnancy. 

We close the hour by rejoining Dass as she grapples with a judge’s decision to put her baby in foster care. Dass and her boyfriend make a desperate move to try and keep their family together. 

For more about Jade Dass and other mothers facing investigation for taking medication assisted treatment, read Shoshana Walter’s investigation in collaboration with the New York Times Magazine.

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