A woman in the Bronx was awarded $75,000 from the New York City Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) after the agency attempted to put her newborn son in foster care because the woman smoked cannabis, legally, hours before giving birth, the New York Times reports. Chanetto Rivers sued the city in May and a federal judge last week signed off on the settlement.
Rivers, who is Black, had claimed the ACS had targeted her because of her race. The agency has long faced criticism for its treatment of Black families and its harsh policies against parents who consume cannabis, the report says.
In August 2021, five months after New York lawmakers passed adult-use cannabis reforms, Rivers smoked cannabis at a family cookout and started having contractions a short time later and went to the hospital to give birth. According to her lawyers, Rivers was asked, while giving birth, whether she had consumed drugs or alcohol, and she admitted to having smoked cannabis. A drug test was subsequently performed on Rivers and the newborn, which came back positive for cannabis, and two days later ACS said it was opening a neglect case and moved to place the child in foster care. Under ACS policy, cannabis in a baby’s system is not enough for removal unless the child is found to be impaired, and Rivers’ infant was not found to be impaired. Rivers was ultimately granted permission by a judge to gain custody of the child.
Niji Jain, Rivers’ lead attorney, told the Times that the settlement shows “actions speak louder than words.”
“You don’t pay somebody $75,000 before any discovery is exchanged at all in the case based on allegations alone unless there is some ‘there’ there,” she said in the report.
In a statement, the city’s Law Department said it had “carefully reviewed the case and determined that this settlement was in the best interest of all parties.”
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