False Positive Drug Tests and CPS

September 16, 2015 Abuse and Neglect Attorney

When an expectant mother arrives at a hospital, ready to deliver her baby into the waiting arms of medical staff, one of the many processes she is required to undergo is blood work. For many mothers, this isn’t even something they’re aware of. Samples are drawn and whisked away for analysis without a word. And for a woman in labor, it’s just one more needle poke, one more test, one more item on a laundry list of things she is ignoring right now. Her attention is elsewhere. On the baby she is delivering.

But for one Michigan woman living in Minot, North Dakota, those tests changed the entire outcome. Shanika Lister, her husband and their two children, are ¬†originally from Michigan. They moved to North Dakota a while ago, and it was there, in Trinity Health Hospital, that Lister gave birth to the couple’s third child.

But somehow, the blood work taken from Lister during her stay in the hospital tested positive for methamphetamine. So Ward County Social Services, the North Dakota equivalent of CPS, came to the hospital the day after she gave birth, and took her baby away.

Lister, naturally, was furious. As someone who had no meth in her system at all, a fact that she was certain of, it was an insult and a disgrace to be accused of drug abuse during her pregnancy. The truth was that Lister had been taking an over-the-counter cold medicine for a few days, which she says caused a false positive drug test.

In addition, Lister has a problem with the methodology. According to her, the test process has no guidelines that staff are required to follow, and is open to racial prejudice. The day Lister’s baby was taken, she submitted to a second test, this time a urinalysis, the results of which were completely free of any meth traces.

But CPS took her newborn nonetheless. And as if that wasn’t awful enough, they filed charges of child abuse against her, which she believes will affect her ability to continue her career as a nurse when she returns to Michigan.

When Lister was released from the hospital, two days after the birth, she sought out a more reliable test to prove her drug-free status. A hair follicle test was done, and once again Lister was proven to be entirely free of any drugs. A week after the birth, Lister’s baby was returned to her.

But Lister is angry. She feels that her baby being removed without giving her a chance to prove that the first test result was a false positive drug test, violates her 14th amendment rights to due process. As a result, she has  filed a lawsuit against Ward County Social Service, two employees of that agency, and Trinity Health.

In the suit, Lister is requesting a jury trial to determine whether or not her rights were violated and her name smeared. She is demanding 50 thousand dollars in damages. As of yet, no court dates have been determined.