Parents Of Drug-Dependent Babies Could Lose Rights In Kentucky

A new Kentucky bill threatens the parental rights of mothers of children born with drug addictions.

In the wake of President Donald Trump’s stringent stance on drug dealers, an amendment in Kentucky law has little or no clemency for mothers who indulged in drugs during their pregnancy, the consequences of which are borne by their newborns.

The new bill categorizes children born with drug addiction as an "abused or neglected child." Moreover, the law can also terminate the parental rights of a mother if she isn’t enrolled in a drug treatment program.

This issue needs to be addressed urgently, considering the country has witnessed an alarming increase in drug-dependent babies across the country as a repercussion of prevalent opioid epidemic.

According to the bill's sponsor, Republican Rep. David Meade, state officials would terminate the parental rights within 60 days of the birth if the mother isn’t complying with drug treatment program.

The bill aims to “amend the definition of an 'abused or neglected child' to specify that it relates to a child diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome.” Upon their birth, children begin to show signs of withdrawal symptoms, which include non-stop crying and shaking. To deal with such a situation is costly and often such children are required to stay in the hospital for two to three weeks. According to NPR, it can cost up to $10,000 in Tennessee to look after one drug-dependent baby.

The Kentucky bill has more than one agenda on board. The bill has other components addressing different aspects of child welfare.

The state’s foster care and adoption system has several loopholes. The prolonged adoption process is being curbed by imposing a timeline, to bring an end to foster children’s distress due to languishing in the court system for years. State officials would be required to terminate parental rights over any child who has been in state custody for 15 months over a four-year period.

Undoubtedly, such measures will ensure children’s well-being but it is accompanied by a hefty cost. Every child’s case would have to be reviewed every three months. Officials with the Cabinet for Health and Family Services have estimated that they would have to hire 25 people to work on this, which would cost between $1 million and $1.5 million.

The problem of the soaring number of births in the U.S. with drug dependency is an issue, and needs nationwide recognition. However, many states aren’t keeping track of such births, making it hard to monitor the issue, according to NPR’s report. 

Thumbnail Credits: Reuters

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