In 2009 my family went public on using cannabis to treat my son Joey’s autism symptoms. I knew I needed a supportive medical team but most of all I needed legal counsel by my side at all times to address state laws that give child protective services social workers the authority to come into a home and remove children on the basis of state negligence laws (that have not caught up to marijuana legislative bills.)
Each state has mandatory reporting laws that vary slightly from state to state. In general, medical professionals are required to report parents, according to a published article titled Medical Marijuana for Minors May be Child Abuse.
As more states adopt autism as a qualifying condition (for medical marijuana), this still does not guarantee child protection services will not knock on your door.
Child Protective Services (CPS) is the name of a government agency in many states of the United States responsible for providing child protection, which includes responding to reports of child abuse or neglect.
I was also one of those parents who answered the door to find a social worker from child protective services. I will never forget her face when she said, "you are Joey’s mom. I saw you on TV."
What the person who called CPS on me didn’t know was that special needs parents in the state regional center program are documented every thirty days and I had been in the system since 1999. This careless act from a family member is one of the reasons why I would walk through a blizzard storm to attend family law court for parents until further federal cannabis laws are passed.
Or State negligence laws are amended…
Regional centers provide assessments, determine eligibility for services, and offer case management services. Regional centers also develop, purchase, and coordinate the services in each person's Individual Program Plan.
These days we are seeing more articles being written even in High times Magazine, "Navigating Child Protective Services." And advocate groups like, Family Law Cannabis Alliance become indicators that all cannabis acceptance is not equal in the judicial system.
During a typical week (four out of seven days) I am contacted by a family who has chosen to use cannabis for their child on the spectrum because they have exhausted all other treatment options. Six days out of the week, I am on call with either legal counsel, family court liaisons or a family of color who has researched the internet and still has not found information to support this treatment option and is in fear of hearing that dreadful knock at the door from CPS.
This is very much so a social equity issue; the lack of proper guidance is resulting in one out of seventeen homes who have NOT had an opportunity or access to reliable guidance and is resulting in a divide among the haves and have-nots.
(The names in this blog have been changed to protect their identities)
Child Protective Services Case in California
This is Mary. This email is sort of a twofold email.
First, my husband’s medical marijuana business was raided by police last week. We have four children here in San Diego County and CPS took them.
Our daughter Sally is a legal medical cardholder in this state.
I was wondering if you have any doctors that can provide "proof" or any data showing just how well we know medical marijuana works. They are letting her continue to take it thank goodness. She's been seizure free for over two years and has been so VERY well.
Secondly, I saw your post on IHSS. I am Linda’s IHSS worker. I need that job especially now since my husband doesn't have one. I am a mother of a severely disabled child with three other children I'm raising. If I lose this, I will have nothing.
I am at a loss. My children are my world and our lives have been torn apart.
Any input you can provide would be deeply appreciated. Any attorneys, information on cannabis and children etc...would be appreciated as well.
Thank you for your time.
Child Protective Service Case in Texas
My name is Alex. I am a case consultant for attorneys and families who find themselves involved with CPS in Texas. I received your name and email address from an anonymous doctor and his wife.
I'm currently assisting an attorney and parent in a case where CPS has alleged the parent gave medicinal cannabis oil to their child.
The child suffers from seizures and hard-turns daily; approximately 15-20 a day.
I have been researching for a while now, attempting to locate a family that has had a similar experience with CPS to determine how CPS handled case.
However, because this is such a new thing in Texas I have not been able to identify any stats on this type of 'maltreatment' or a family in (undisclosed state).
The recommending doctor thought you might have additional info on this precise subject matter.
We are scheduled to meet with CPS today in a couple of hours. I realize this is late, however my research had just now led me to you.
If you have a few minutes, I would greatly appreciate a moment to speak with you.
Child Protective Service Case in Portland
I will make myself available anytime today and tonight EXCEPT 9:30am-11:30am. Please let me know what time you can talk.
I need to find a reputable doctor in Portland, OR that will see my
adolescent daughter. I assume he/she will evaluate and diagnose a
qualifying condition for medical marijuana use.
I need to know how to keep CPS away from my family. We are currently being investigated.
I need to know how to find and develop a relationship with a grower in order to find the best possible fit for my daughter's issues.
The most urgent and immediate issue is explosiveness:
physical violence. 2nd is Extreme Anxiety. Very close 3rd is ADHD-like
symptoms but far more frantic and intense. She is in CONSTANT state of
hyper vigilance, PTSD.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Back to California….
Subject: Re: Hi Mieko - child protective services
A social worker who investigates child abuse left her card on the door when my wife was not home with a note asking for a call.
Other than the medical marijuana issue, I do not know of any other reason why they would come to the door unannounced.
They may get aggressive... Who can we speak to understand our rights?
Child Protective Service Case in Delaware
This last case has become very disturbing and a trend on the east coast with social workers who are not prepared for the influx of marijuana bills being passed either for medical or adult use.
I’m receiving more calls with social workers using their personal opinions on their views on cannabis to threaten the removal of children which could present further PTSD trauma like symptoms for the child on the spectrum.
This email was sent to a social worker in Delaware after finding out the family did in fact use cannabis to treat their son’s autism symptoms and had a long history of behavioral issues to support their choice. But, provided hardship by keeping their case open for a week once cannabis was identified.
Email correspondence with social worker...
Hello Tom (social worker) ,
You asked me about the medical cannabis. Our family chose to do that
after months of research on how medical cannabis helps people with
autism. It was not a decision that we made lightly.
The pharmaceutical medication that
he was on was caused Tim to develop a
Parkinsons-like tremor. He would start shaking his head almost like
he was having a seizure.
Those tremors would have become permanent after 5 years. He was put on additional medication to counter act the tremors. We took him off those medications around the 4th year of the 5 year mark. We have also decreased his other (undisclosed) medication as well.
We did everything we were required to by law. He is on a very small amount of the medical cannabis. The two other safety concerns from the county are also being dealt with.
We have stopped locking his door. We have the door alarm so that is
no longer an issue. The behavioral services will continue when his
school re opens.
The challenges of having a child on the spectrum at home since March 2020 because of COVID have changed the dynamics of our homes beyond what we were managing before (on our way to choosing cannabis a viable option.)
Now, we need to set some safeguard procedures in place that can be added to marijuana legislative bills statewide as educational requirements that can be verified during any family law proceedings.
As I appear in family court (via Zoom), as an expert for cases, I started building the “Joey’s Guidance Provision” that will simplify verification for families who have chosen this treatment option so parents can focus on their family.
Special needs parents follow a completely different set of guidelines for services and financial assistance in our homes. This usually includes a composite of special education and confidentiality laws. In a nutshell, we need to initiate a mandatory protocol when receiving medical marijuana recommendations for special needs families, specifically.
This protocol also needs to provide an updated educational checklist for social workers statewide as more states pass marijuana laws to stimulate their economy. We need to get more social workers up-to-date with instruction on how to identify “green flags” families who passed the mandatory safeguard requirement.
Janie Maedler of Rylie’s Smile and I (Mieko Perez, Healthcare Ambassador & Autism Advocate), have joined together to sit down with lawmakers to ensure these protocols are taken into consideration.
Ask us about the Joey’s Guidance Provision and how your state can adopt his safeguard for families.
Please click below to take a quick anonymous survey to help us better support ASD families.
Cannabis, Autism and CPS (Child Protection Services) Survey (click to begin)