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Custody of baby given back to Alaska Native mother who used cocaine before birth

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  • Custody of baby given back to Alaska Native mother who used cocaine before birth,...032404,00.html

    Custody of baby given back to Alaska Native mother who used cocaine before
    By Associated Press


    A mother who used cocaine the day she gave birth has regained custody of her
    baby after a judge cited a law that limits cases in which American Indian
    children can be taken from their homes.

    Most mothers whose newborns have cocaine in their system lose custody under
    state and federal laws. But the judge Friday cited the Indian Child Welfare Act
    in ruling that the 18-year-old should keep the child.

    "I'm kind of in shock," the woman told The Dallas Morning News for a Saturday

    The newspaper did not identify the woman, who is a Texas resident but was born
    in Alaska, because it would identify her baby. The baby was taken into state
    custody shortly after being born in September.

    State District Judge John L. Sholden said state social workers failed to offer
    an expert on the mother's tribes _ the Tlingit and Haida of Alaska _ to testify
    on their customs and culture.

    "This case concerns me because we had a very serious removal," Sholden said
    before ruling. "It pains me I have no other choice."

    Geoff Wool, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Family and Protective
    Services, said other issues weakened the state's case for taking custody of the

    "It was not merely that we didn't have a tribal expert," he said. "We
    apparently had not taken active efforts to offer rehabilitative services to
    prevent the breakup of the Indian family."

    The woman's lawyer said she is in a drug rehabilitation program.

    The Indian Child Welfare Act provides tough standards for removing American
    Indian children from their homes.

    Congress passed the law in 1978 to curb a rise in adoptions of Indian children
    by non-Indians. In some states, 35 percent of Indian children had been removed
    from their homes to live with non-Indians.

    A good friend will come and bail you out of jail . . . but, a true friend will
    be sitting next to you saying, "**** . . . that was fun!"
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