Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Hair strand test is unreliable

"Four years ago, Yvonne Marchand lost custody of her daughter.
Even though child services found no proof that she was a negligent parent, that didn't count for much against the overwhelmingly positive results from a hair test. The lab results said she was abusing alcohol on a regular basis and in enormous quantities..."

"Motherisk hair test results indicated that Marchand had been downing 48 drinks a day, for 90 days. `If you do the math, I would have died drinking that much` Marchand says. `There's no way I could function`."

"The court disagreed, and determined Marchand was unfit to have custody of her daughter..."

"As it turns out, Marchand wasn't alone. For over a decade, scores of Canadians received unsound hair test results from Motherisk. Their tests were used in some 16,000 child protection cases as well as six criminal cases that culminated in convictions, although it's unclear how many of those tests were faulty..."

"But by the late 1990's, increasing numbers of child protection agencies were approaching Motherisk with requests to test hair samples, looking to prove that parents were impaired by drugs or alcohol. By the early 2000s, it was advertising nation-wide. As of last year, it was testing approximately 2,000 hair samples each year for child protection agencies..."

"A positive test could be sufficient grounds to separate a child from their parent or parents, and place them in foster care."

"Motherisk was operating like a forensic lab, even though it had never received accreditation to do so. Dr. Gideon Koren, the lab's founder, and Joey Gareri, the lab's director since 2006, were not qualified in forensic science. The fact Motherisk lacked forensic accreditation didn't seem to hurt its evidence's admissibility in court..."

"The magnitude of that mess is becoming increasingly clear."

"The investigation arrived at damning conclusions. The 366-page report a meticulous examination of every aspect of Motherisk was released in December. Lang concluded that results from Motherisk hair tests, like Marchand's, were `inadequate`, `unreliable`, and had `serious implications for the fairness of those proceedings.` At the urging of Lang, a commission will review the thousands of child-protection cases which relied on hair testing results from Motherisk."

"Justice Lang's findings have thrown the foster care system and child protection services into total disarray."

"On Monday, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies announced that up to 300 adoption cases were being put on hold while those cases are reviewed, leaving adoptive parents, foster families and adoptees in limbo."

(Feb 4 2016)

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