Holistic mom says state threatened to take her kids after infant’s umbilical cord inaccurately tested positive for drugs​

News & Politics

Emily Donlin, an Iowa mother who insists she has never done drugs and even refuses to take over-the-counter pain relievers, claims that the Department of Health and Human Services threatened to take custody of her two children after her infant’s umbilical cord inaccurately tested positive for cocaine.

During a Thursday interview with BlazeTV host Allie Beth Stuckey, Donlin shared how the state’s HHS attempted to use the results from one drug test to break up her family.

What are the details?

Eight months ago, Donlin gave birth to her second son, Paul, she told Stuckey on a recent episode of “Relatable.” The holistic mother explained that it was an unplanned home birth and that she had initially intended to go to a hospital.

“He was born, and we went into the hospital afterward to just make sure everyone is fine,” Donlin stated.

Medical staff recorded Paul’s birth as “precipitous,” but Donlin noted that she experienced 10 hours of labor.

“My first labor was, I think, 28 hours, and so we really thought we had at least five more hours,” she said.

Donlin commented that although she had suffered some complications, the staff confirmed that her son was healthy. While at the hospital, Donlin and her husband declined to have Paul receive newborn vaccinations, she explained, adding that neither of her children are vaccinated.

Following the hospital visit, the couple took Paul home, and everything appeared to be fine. However, two weeks after her son’s birth, a social worker with the state’s Department of Health and Human Services showed up at their front door with a sheriff, claiming that Paul’s umbilical cord had tested positive for cocaine.

“When they knocked on our door, we were completely shocked and blindsided and extremely fearful,” Donlin said. “I actually was recovering. I hemorrhaged in the hospital after the birth and so I became anemic.”

“I was also very weak, and I was nursing my son, and you can kind of imagine the hormones and the emotions that are going on at that time,” she added.

Donlin explained that she and her husband invited the HHS worker and the sheriff inside their home to discuss the test results.

“Now, looking back, I would have said, ‘You can wait outside. I’m going to call our lawyer,'” Donlin continued. “We didn’t know that at that point.”

The couple felt desperate to prove their innocence and trusted that the HHS would see they had nothing to hide.

Donlin and her husband explained to the HHS worker the story of their son’s birth and added that they are a “very holistic family” who do not even take ibuprofen or Tylenol for headaches.

“I’ve never done cocaine in my life,” she stated.

Donlin learned that the hospital had taken an eight- to 10-inch sample of her son’s umbilical cord and sent it to a lab for drug testing without her knowledge or consent.

The mother claims she was told conflicting information about testing practices. At one point, she was told that every infant is tested, and later, she was informed that they only test when hospital staff has reason to suspect drug use based on a list of indicators. One of those indicators might be a precipitous labor, she speculated.

Donlin stated, “We felt we didn’t have any other choice” but to go along with the HHS’ plan, including taking a three-month hair test, which came out negative.

According to Donlin, in the eyes of the HHS, the negative drug test did not prove her innocence. Instead, she was placed on the child abuse registry.

“We lost all trust” in the department, Donlin said.

“This is wrong,” she continued. “This is crazy. How did it even go this far? We really had faith that [HHS] was going to understand the situation.”

The HHS informed her and her husband that they would need to consent to “voluntary services,” but it was never explained to them what the services entailed, Donlin stated. She claimed that not agreeing to the services would result in the department taking the case to court and essentially mandating the services.

Since the couple were unaware of what they were being asked to agree to, they declined. The case was moved to a “children in need of assistance” petition, which is “a court filing that states the reasons why HHS thinks your child is in need of the supervision of the juvenile court,” according to Iowa law.

Donlin stated that her family received three lawyers: one for herself, another for her husband, and a third for her children.

As part of her evidence, Donlin submitted a negative 12-month hair test result that covered the entire duration of her pregnancy. Despite submitting, in total, seven negative drug tests, Donlin stated that HHS recommended that the judge remove her children from her home.

“The first [recommendation] is custody of our children would be moved under the department,” Donlin told Stuckey. “Custody of the children would be placed into foster care or they use the term ‘fictive kin,’ or family, relative. But we live with my mom and I’m just not confident that they would actually choose [her].”

Donlin continued reading off the HHS’ recommendations, which included requiring her to submit to “all and any further drug testing.” The agency also recommended that she and her husband “participate in family center services,” she said.

“This is the day before Thanksgiving this happens, we received this filing,” Donlin noted. “I was physically sick that day.”

“Am I going to be a criminal now?” Donlin questioned. “I can’t allow them to take our kids. I can’t allow that.”

She explained that she had attempted to get the umbilical cord sample retested for their court case but could not get the hospital and the lab to do so.

“The hospital took a piece of my umbilical cord, my body, my organ, that my body created and did a test on it, housed it at this lab and I have no access to it,” she said.

On Monday, Donlin and her husband went to court to hear the judge’s determination on their case.

“They dismissed our case, and we felt like that wasn’t even possible,” she told Stuckey. “I want this dismissal, of course, but why make the recommendations? You just sent us through this entire crazy, chaotic roller coaster of emotion like you’re going to remove our kids, and you don’t want to prove that? … It makes no sense. It’s just so frustrating that they can throw that out there.”

“It felt very cruel,” Donlin stated.

Despite the dismissal, Donlin noted that she is still on the child abusers registry. She added that she and her husband are now concerned about having future children since the hospital takes recommendations from HHS. They speculated whether their decision not to vaccinate their children had anything to do with the state’s lengthy investigation.

“There was no due process at all in any of this,” Donlin said. “The fact that they’re able to do this to a mother, to a family, it’s just so wrong.”

Donlin and her husband plan to request an appeal.

On Friday, a spokesperson for Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services told Blaze News that the department plans to issue a statement by early this week. Blaze News did not receive a statement by time of publication. However, the agency noted that it would be “unable to respond about specific cases, clients, or patients.”

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