FARGO – A baby born addicted to methamphetamine reportedly has been returned to a mother from the Spirit Lake reservation who an official said failed to submit to drug tests.
The 4-month-old infant was hospitalized for a month before being placed in foster care until last week, when the child was returned to its addicted mother, according to a report made to federal officials.
Before the child was returned to the mother, the Bureau of Indian Affairs required her to complete a two-week program sponsored by Spirit Lake Recovery and Wellness, according to a report of suspected abuse or neglect submitted by Thomas Sullivan, a regional human services official.
“She refused to take at least two of the random drug tests required by this program,” Sullivan wrote early last week. “It seems reasonable to conclude the mother is still addicted to meth.”
In an earlier report, before being told the infant had been returned to the mother, Sullivan wrote that the mother at first wanted little to do with the child.
The tribal court had allowed the mother to have unsupervised weekend custody of the newborn baby in her home, he said in his initial report last week.
Once released from the hospital, the child was placed by Ramsey County child protection officials in a foster home, according to Sullivan, who has submitted a series of seven reports of suspected child abuse or neglect involving Spirit Lake children.
“The foster dad is extremely frustrated,” said Molly McDonald, a former tribal judge who knows the foster family, who live off the reservation. “They placed this child back in danger with its mother.”
McDonald has been critical of the Spirit Lake Tribe’s social services, which the BIA took over Oct. 1 after finding serious program deficiencies.
A BIA spokeswoman said the agency will not comment on the case involving the infant and mother.
“We don’t comment on individual cases,” said Nedra Darling. “The Bureau of Indian Affairs considers any and all reported allegations of child abuse extremely serious,” and investigates thoroughly, she said.
Rhonda Allery, the director of Lake Social Services, which serves Devils Lake and is located near the Spirit Lake reservation, said babies in the area are being born with drugs in the bloodstream, a problem that is not unique to any racial or ethnic group.
“I can’t tell you the number, but prenatal exposure to drugs is a problem in our community,” she said. Medical professionals are required to report cases when they encounter them.
Over the past year, the number of infants exposed to drugs from their mothers’ drug use has increased, but Allery believes at least part of the increase is because reporting has improved.
“I think people are more educated,” she said. The goal is to get the expectant mothers into treatment programs to ensure their babies are safe.
“We are trying to focus on prevention and getting women into services,” she said. “This is really a difficult area.”