A California mother has been reunited with her baby daughter after the Riverside County child welfare agency took the baby away from her during the first week of the child’s life because hospital workers wrongly believed she was on drugs.
A recent story from Cosmopolitan tells the story of Tiffany Langwell, who gave birth to her daughter in August.
Langwell said that after her daughter was born she was moved to a room with two other new mothers. She said because the room was cramped and one of the women talked loudly on her cell phone almost the entire time, she decided, with her fiance, to check out and take the baby home early.
That decision raised red flags with the hospital administration, according to the website Care2. One hospital worker said Langwell appeared “hostile” and shaky and irritable — all signs, they believed, that she had a drug problem.
Langwell said any sign of irritability likely came from the fact that she had recently given birth without the benefit of an epidural.
A day later, child welfare workers appeared at her door and asked to take the baby back to the hospital for a drug screening. Langwell agreed, at her home, to submit to a drug screening herself but the sample was inconclusive. At the hospital, staff members were unable to properly catheterize the day-old baby in order to obtain a urine sample.
That is when authorities told Langwell they were keeping the baby until she could prove she didn’t have a drug problem.
That was too much for Langwell and her fiance David Hodek.
“It's legalized kidnapping,” Langwell said. “I thought it was some horrible joke. You are guilty until you prove your innocence. Who cares that they slandered my name? But they took my daughter for the first week of her life and put her with a stranger.”
Langwell submitted, that day, to a hair follicle test. The test came back negative for drugs.
A few days later, the county returned her daughter to her.
Sara Ainsworth, the director of legal advocacy for the group National Advocates for Pregnant Women, said Langwell’s story is a good example of how the behavior of new mothers, particularly poor mothers, can bring intense scrutiny.
“We often see the extremely problematic ‘If you test positive for a drug, we're going to take the baby’ cases,” Ainsworth said, “but this is a next step: ‘If we think you used a drug because of your poverty or your conduct, then we're going to step in.’”
Hospital and county officials said they couldn’t comment specifically on individual cases.
Langwell’s fiance was forced to move out of their home after criminal background checks into his past turned up some arrests and a petty theft conviction.
“Getting her back was the happiest thing,” Langwell said, “but sad too, because her dad had to move out.”
Hodek, who is living in a motel and allowed to see his daughter twice a week, said he is working hard to meet county requirements so he can move back in with his family. He is going to therapy and in the process of obtaining new prescriptions to manage pain and anxiety from a prior injury.
“When you're dangling someone's child on the end of the hook, you'll do or say anything,” he said. “I stole the Lindberg baby! I was on the grassy knoll! Now can I see my baby? Every day that goes by I'm missing more firsts.”