Health and Human Rights Victory in New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency v. Y.N
Trenton, New Jersey: December 22, 2014, the New Jersey Supreme Court announced its unanimous ruling in New Jersey Division of Child Protection & Permanency v. Y.N. This decision rejects a lower court finding that a mother may be charged with civil child abuse and neglect because her newborn exhibited the transitory and treatable side effects of methadone treatment that the woman received during pregnancy.
At the center of the case is a woman, identified by the court as Y.N., who had been struggling with a dependency on opioid painkillers. When she found out she was pregnant, she followed medical advice and obtained care that included methadone treatment. She gave birth to a healthy baby who was successfully treated for symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS), which is a group of side effects that may result from methadone treatment and other medications. As a result of the NAS diagnosis, Y.N. was reported to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP, formerly the Division of Youth and Family Services), and was judged to have abused her child because she agreed with her physician’s recommendation and followed the prescribed course of methadone treatment while pregnant.
National Advocates for Pregnant Women with Lawrence S. Lustberg of Gibbons P.C., filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief on behalf of 76 organizations and experts in maternal, fetal, and child health, addiction treatment, and health advocacy. This amicus brief is referred to in the decision as the amicus brief on behalf of “Experts in Maternal and Fetal Health, Public Health, and Drug Treatment.”
Lynn Paltrow, Executive Director of National Advocates for Pregnant Women and co-counsel for amici said, “This is an important victory, making clear that methadone treatment for pregnant women is health care, not harm.”