Los Angeles Daily News Examines Connection Between High Number of Minority Children in Foster Care System, Drug Tests Given to Minority Mothers in Hospitals
Some health care officials maintain that the high population of minority children in the foster care system can be attributed in part to hospitals and welfare agencies disproportionately administering drug tests to low-income, pregnant minority women who seek public health care, the Los Angeles Daily News reports. Nationwide, 58% of the 513,000 children in foster care are minorities, although they comprise only 42% of the U.S. child population, according to the Daily News.
A Journal of Women's Health study found black women and their newborns were 1.5 times more likely than other races and ethnicities to be tested for the presence of illicit drugs. The decision on which patients should be screened for illicit drug use, is up to individual hospital staff, the Daily News reports. In addition, poor and minority mothers who test positive for drug use are often unaware or unable to afford additional tests to confirm the first finding.
Dorothy Roberts, a professor at the Northwestern University School of Law and author of a book on welfare, said, "There is very strong evidence that hospital staff are more likely to suspect drug use on the part of black mothers and these mothers are more likely to have their children removed and put in foster care."
Barry Lester, a professor of pediatrics and psychiatry at Brown University who lobbied to develop a national policy on the issue, said, "Hospitals have different rules on how they decide who to drug test," adding, "Sometimes the rules are medically based. ... But a lot of times the decision is based on clinical suspicion" and as a result, "There is a tremendous imbalance of poor people and minorities who end up getting tested" (Anderson, Los Angeles Daily News, 6/29).