By Donald M. Kreis
Cases generally reach and are decided by appellate courts at roughly the speed of molasses, so it is rare that a decision of the Supreme Court of Vermont speaks directly to the headlines of the day. But that’s exactly the case here, with respect to the epidemic of opioid and opiate abuse in Vermont and its effect on the most vulnerable among us—our children.
A boy, identified here only as C.M., was born on June 25, 2014, already dependent on opioids as the result of his mother’s prenatal abuse of Suboxone. In these times especially, it is only common sense that the state should take custody by adjudging the infant to be, in the parlance of Vermont law, CHINS—a child in need of supervision. Right?
At issue in the case are actually two children, C.M. and his older sister, M.M. Writing for a 4-1 majority, Justice Eaton affirms the trial court’s determination that both M.M. and C.M. were CHINS in light of undisputed evidence that mother had been in and out of drug treatment for nine years, had been kicked out of such a program at the time she became pregnant with the younger child, was purchasing Suboxone off the street, and had been convicted of driving while intoxicated in connection with one of two incidents in which police found mother driving M.M. around without required child-safety restraints.