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April 1994

Infant 'Abandonment' by Drug-Using Mothers: Blaming the Victims?

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1994;148(4):437-438. doi:10.1001/archpedi.1994.02170040103021

Abedin et al1 describe a series of newborns, mainly exposed to cocaine and other drugs, who were medically dischargeable but remained hospitalized "because of lack of a suitable home or caretaker." They imply that these infants were "abandoned" by their biological parents although their data do not support this supposition, particularly because 25% of the infants were ultimately discharged to their mothers. The investigators suggest that these infants would be better served in foster care, yet they omit discussion of alternative policies to maintain family cohesion. The authors attribute the higher rates of infant abandonment among African Americans to inadequate family support, but they offer little evidence for this hypothesis.

Rather than parental abandonment, it is likely that these discharges were delayed because of hospital and/or local child welfare policies that require investigations into the suitability of the child's home and caregivers prior to discharge following the identification of