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Newborns seized from women in rehab: study

WINNIPEG—A study assessing a Manitoba alcohol rehabilitation program indicates participants are more likely to have their babies taken from them at birth than those who aren’t seeking help.

The study by researchers at the University of Manitoba also suggests that being in the three-year program helped women regain their children in the long run.

It found 25 percent of infants born to 226 women in the government’s InSight program were seized by Child and Family Services within 72 hours of birth compared with four percent in a comparison group with similar issues.

The apprehension rate remained the same for participants who completed the alcohol addiction program, which is aimed at reducing the prevalence of drinking during pregnancy and the number of children born with fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

Researcher Chelsea Ruth said it’s not clear why the apprehension rate was higher for rehab participants, who had no access to social services, had a history of domestic violence, and struggled with mental-health issues.

“That may have happened because the children were not safe to be taken home by their mothers,” she said yesterday.

“It’s also possible that it did happen through inappropriate stigmatization.”

Cora Morgan, the province’s First Nations’ children’s advocate, said she worries parents will be deterred from seeking help if they risk losing their children.

She noted she recently was approached by a mother who sought help for addiction issues.

“The organization she went to for help turned around and called CFS,” Morgan said. “Now CFS is pursuing apprehension of her children.

“You have parents who are going out and trying to get support and, rather than getting the support they need, it amounts to their children being apprehended,” she added.

The study noted the program appeared to help those who had older children in care—the number of children in care fell from 81 percent before the program to 64 percent afterwards.

“Lower rates of having children taken into care overall may represent InSight participants’ increased ability to parent safely,” the study said.

It didn’t specifically focus on child welfare so the issue requires more investigation, Ruth said.

The study found the mentoring program helped women get access to crucial social services and contraception while cutting down on substance abuse.

But it found participants had trouble maintaining the gains once they left the program.

Family Services minister Kerri Irvin-Ross said programs such as InSight help families in the long run.

Women who admit they need help should be supported, she noted.

“A person is involved in a program because they are struggling with an issue and, in this case, it’s an addiction,” Irvin-Ross said.

“We know that it inhibits your ability to parent.

“Temporarily, a child may have to be placed into care or with a family member because there is a safety concern,” she stressed.

The goal is to reunite a child with its mother as soon as possible, she added.

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