WINNIPEG — The mother of a newborn seen in a social media video being taken away by police in hospital had told social workers she’d unsuccessfully been treated for addiction, had used cocaine during the last three months of pregnancy and had asked about having family care for the baby.
Documents filed in court detail concerns social workers had around the mother’s substance misuse and mental-health issues that were behind the apprehension of the two-day-old baby in January.
The seizure of the child was broadcast live on Facebook by the mother’s uncle. The video shows the mother sitting in a Winnipeg hospital bed and cradling the newborn in her arms as social workers and police explain the child is being taken into care.
The woman cries softly and a family member weeps nearby before officers place the newborn in a car seat and take her away.
The family cannot be identified under Manitoba law.
The video led to an outcry online and First Nations leaders have said it shows a child-welfare system biased against Indigenous people.
Statistics from the Manitoba government show that newborn apprehensions occur, on average, about once a day. About 90 per cent of kids in care are Indigenous.
The General Child and Family Services Authority oversees the social workers who apprehended the baby but is no longer involved in the case. It has said it stands by its decision.
The documents say hospital staff believed the mother was drunk and smelled of alcohol when she was brought to the hospital to have the baby. In a news conference with family a day later, the mother and her family admitted she’d struggled with addiction and had sought help before and during her pregnancy, but they disputed the allegation she was intoxicated during labour.
After the baby was born, the document says, hospital staff noticed the mother was overwhelmed by the requirements of parenting a baby and asked for morphine. Staff were also worried she wasn’t noticing when the baby was hungry and intervened to feed the infant with a bottle.
The mother has said she was “blindsided” by the apprehension.
“When I was holding my baby, she was actually the one who was keeping me content and strong and focused,” she said in January.
Before the baby was born, Child and Family Services received information the mother may have been using drugs or alcohol, the documents say. They say she was staying at a residence for pregnant women in December and was spotted looking drowsy, had glossy eyes and gave different explanations about where she had been.
The court papers say the mother had a hair follicle test at the end of that month which tested positive for the use of OxyContin sometime within the three months prior. They say she also has anxiety, depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
There were also concerns over two possible fathers of the newborn, the documents say. The mother wouldn’t give information to identify the men but said one was incarcerated, verbally abusive and a “bad guy.”
A man has since come forward saying he is the father of the newborn girl, so a child protection hearing on Wednesday was adjourned for a week at the request of the man’s lawyer. The request was relayed by a lawyer representing the First Nations child and family services agency in charge of the baby.
The mother, who was at the courthouse but did not take part in the hearing, has said her goal is to have the baby placed in the care of the mother’s aunt.
Prior to the birth, the mother had given the name of a family member to social workers, but the court documents say a background check came back with “concerning results” and the family member would require further assessment.
Cora Morgan, a family advocate with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, has said the mother may have been targeted for a “birth alert” — a note to social workers that an expectant mother is high risk — because she had another daughter who was temporarily in care several years ago.
The other child was brought into care as a teenager in 2014, the documents say, because of concerns about substance abuse and neglect of the child. There were also two substantiated abuse investigations into the household.
The family has previously said they’ve had visits with the baby and are co-operating with the agency.
Kelly Geraldine Malone, The Canadian Press