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Care mother’s drugs test results ‘could be contamination’

Apparently positive drugs test should not influence the outcome of a care case, a family court judge has ruled.

The case concerned ‘W’, a boy born in February last year. Just days after his birth social workers began care proceedings because the mother had a history of drug abuse.

However, as the care proceedings continued, it became clear that the mother had made significant improvements to her lifestyle and social workers began to think in terms of allowing her to keep the child.

The mother then underwent three rounds of hair strand testing for traces of drugs in her system. Sitting in the Central Family Court, Judge Tolson QC explained:

“The outcome of two of three tests, ordered by the court, stood in some contrast to what appeared to be the situation on the ground.”

The mother insisted that she had stopping taking drugs and gave every indication of having done so. One of the three tests conducted backed up this claim, but the other two found trace amounts of a chemical associated with the use of cocaine.

In an attempt to address the contradiction, a trichologist (hair specialist) was consulted. He explained to the court that the chemical which had been detected in the two positive tests is found naturally in the environment and consequently the results could be down to accidental contamination. The third negative test lent credence to this conclusion, he said.

The Judge asked:

“First, taken at its height, my concern was that these results could at worst indicate only a low level of cocaine consumption. Would it in these circumstances be proportionate to separate mother and child?”

The local authority still maintained that the mother may have taken drugs and the care proceedings should therefore proceed, but following the specialist evidence put forward an alternative plan: that W should be returned to his mother’s care under the supervision of social workers.

In a concise judgment, Judge Tolson concluded that this revised plan was sensible, saying the trichologist’s insights meant that a full care order for the toddler “would not be proportionate” and remaining with his mother would be in W’s best interests.

W’s father, meanwhile, should be allowed to continue seeing him on a regular, but supervised basis, he continued:

“W’s father has also had substance abuse difficulties in the past, and there are a number of concerns about him.  Past, although perhaps distant past, violence, and a criminal record.  Nevertheless, it seems to me that the focus of my attention ought to be his behaviour around W himself.  It is rightly pointed out to me that there is no suggestion that any of the father’s past difficulties have surfaced in the context of the time he spends with W.”

Supervision of the father would end after a period of three months (12 weeks), at which point the father’s contact would be four hours every two weeks.

Read the ruling here.

The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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  1. Paul says:

    Fxxksake. So hear we have too disfunctional drug users with violent history who have managed to get contact and supervised contact. Then their is me. Normal working guy. Clean living. No violent history. No drug use. No contact.
    (*Comment moderated)

  2. Paul says:

    Oh silly me. Its the money factor again. If these violent druggies can afford a cocaine habit. Sure they have no problem affording a solicitor. Only reason I can think of why the court would be make excuses for someone who has failed two out of three drug tests. Blatent corruption. Sickening.

  3. Dr manhattan says:

    “alternative plan: that W should be returned to his mother’s care under the supervision of social workers.”
    if the LA want this child for Adoption they will do the usual trick, Build a case against the mother so they can remove the child.

  4. marilynn says:

    Parents who love and are fighting to maintain custody and contact with their son or daughter should be commended not put down. Their son or daughter is blessed to be loved, albeit by imperfect parents, who created him or her. Anyone fighting to strip their son or daughter of their right to care by his or her own parents should be ashamed of themselves.

    Besides they only take children from drug addicts who are on the public dole. Self supporting addicts and drunks don’t loose their offspring unless they are convicted and sent to prison for assault.

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