Province asked to apologize to woman whose children were taken away after mix-up

PC MLA says an infant and a seven-year-old were mistakenly removed from their mother's care for four weeks by Child Protective Services after a drug test mix-up.

Infant and 7-year-old removed from mother's care for 4 weeks after drug test mix-up

PC MLA Barbara Adams said it took three weeks after the mix-up was discovered before the children were returned home. (Getty Images)

Nova Scotia's community services minister has been asked to apologize to a young woman who was apparently left traumatized after two of her children were mistakenly taken away by Child Protective Services for four weeks.

The woman's case was raised in the provincial legislature Friday by Progressive Conservative critic Barbara Adams, who did not name the woman or her children.

"As you can imagine, this family was incredibly traumatized by this experience," Adams said during question period.

Adams said the two children — an infant and a seven-year-old — were apprehended after police raided the family home in July, acting on a report from the department that the woman had tested positive for illicit drug use.

To ensure the children's welfare, the woman had to submit to random drug testing because she had a previous history of illicit drug use, Adams said.

The Community Services Department called the woman a week later to confirm there had been a mix-up.

"The positive test belonged to someone else," Adams said.

However, it took another three weeks before the children were returned home.

"When the province removes children from a family, they have to have more than bad data," she said. "(The department) has yet to issue an apology to the family, and have not reimbursed the family for their legal fees."

Glenn Friel of the Community Services Department suggested in an email late Friday that other factors were involved in the decision.

"Drug testing would be only one of many sources of information that would be considered in making a decision to bring a child in to care. There is never a reliance on only one piece of information," he said.

He said all efforts are made to keep "the integrity of the family" before children are taken into care.

The member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage asked if Community Services Minister Kelly Regan would apologize to the family for the mix-up.

Regan said she could not speak about individual cases, but she assured Adams that her department would look into the case. 

Outside the legislature, Adams said the children weren't returned to the woman until after the politician called the department to determine what was going on.

She said she wants the department to adopt policies to ensure this kind of mistake doesn't happen again.

"This is somebody who has her life together and is moving forward with the support of her family — and they were invaded like a SWAT team," Adams said. "It left a horrible fear in them that this could happen to others."