Despite a pressing need for parents for the state's more than 18,000 children in foster care, Arizona Department of Child Services officials have updated its policy regarding medical marijuana users saying they are not eligible for licensing or to parent a foster child.
According to the Phoenix New Times, the Arizona DCA has had an anti-marijuana policy in place since 2011 that bans it from issuing foster-care licenses to anyone who uses or possesses marijuana. While the DCA doesn't specifically ban foster-care parents who have state-issued medical-marijuana cards, they draw the line when it comes to those who use or possess medical marijuana or its extracts.
Describing the conundrum, Phoenix attorney Rebecca Masterson explained that she took in a foster child who is dealing with "anger issues" two weeks ago, only to be later rejected because she purchases a product that contains cannabidol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in cannabis.
According to Masterson, she bumped up against the rule when she applied for a stipend from the state to help with the expenses of taking on a child.
"The stipend would be helpful as my grocery bill has doubled and the teenager came with four garbage bags of clothes, three of which were too small," Masterson wrote on her blog. "What I don’t need would go into an account for Johnny to use when he’s older."
According to Paterson she was denied a license and the stipend even after she explained that the supplement is for her own 12-year-old son as a "last-ditch attempt to control what she described in her blog as [his] 'tics.'"
"And when I say 'tics,' I mean he was punching himself in the face so hard that I had to wrap his hands up in bandages because I was legitimately scared he would break his nose," she explained.
"The State basically said," Masterson wrote, "sorry, you crazy lawyer with an adopted son and all this special needs and attachment experience, even though you’re the only person willing to open your home to this 16-year-old boy in the system, and even though he is already living in your home, we don’t think you’re suitable to be a licensed foster parent because you buy a supplement online that really helps your child. No license for you."
According to DCS spokesperson Darren DaRonco, "denying a foster license based solely on medical marijuana is extremely rare," without sharing statistics, before adding, "Arizona is grateful for our thousands of licensed and unlicensed foster homes, both providing safe, family environments for children to grow and thrive."
"Licensing of foster homes ... is regulated by state and federal law. State rules require that foster parents comply with all laws," he offered, stating, "In cases of foster parent applicants who use or possess marijuana, with or without a card, DCS may not license them, due to the known federally controlled substance in the home. We are simply complying with the law while keeping children safe to the best of our ability."
The New Times, explains that Arizona currently has "18,000 children in out-of-home placements last year, with about 6,500 with licensed foster parents and another 7,500 in kinship placements," adding that the Arizona Children's Association claims there there is a "critical need" for foster parents.
You can read the whole report here.