Mimesis Law
4 March 2021

Mom Leaves Pot Brownie On Sink, Spends Christmas Without Kid

Dec. 23, 2015 (Mimesis Law) — Small children have a tendency to eat things they’re not supposed to touch. Sometimes ingestion of that particular item or substance can have adverse consequences. In the case of Vanessa Rodriguez, her daughter’s ingestion of less than a bite of one marijuana brownie means child endangerment charges and a holiday without her daughter.

Vanessa Rodriguez, 28, admitted to cops that she left the marijuana-laced brownie on a counter in her Heberton Ave. home in Port Richmond on Tuesday, intending to toss it in the trash, according to court papers.

The next thing she knew, she saw that her kid “looked a bit loopy,” and took her into the shower, the papers said.

The girl still looked “a bit out of it,” Rodriguez told police. “At this point I saw the brownie in the sink. There was less than a bite missing.”

Vanessa then took her daughter to the hospital, ostensibly out of concern and a desire to see any potential issues treated. Once the treating physicians performed a urine test on Vanessa’s daughter and found THC in her system, phone calls were made to the police and the City’s Administration for Children’s Services. Merry Christmas, Vanessa. Your gift is a holiday without your daughter and fighting misdemeanor charges in court.

Police arrested Rodriguez on Wednesday. She’s charged with endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, said a spokesman for acting Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Master.

It’s not like the hospital staff had any say in the matter. The New York State Office of Children and Family Services says that certain groups of people are mandated to “report suspected cases of child abuse and maltreatment.” One of those groups happens to be medical and hospital personnel, so one would think the treating physicians and nurses were simply doing their job.

The kicker in the above quote from the Office of Children and Family Services’ website is that bolded word, “suspected.” The treating physician and nursing staff who handled the care of Vanessa Rodriguez’s daughter could have taken the time to question Rodriguez, use the brains that earned them the ability to practice some form of medicine, and determine whether this was actually a case of child abuse and maltreatment.  The cynic in me says once the urinalysis revealed THC in the child’s system, judgment was thrown out the window and phone calls got made.

It’s way too easy to predict Vanessa Rodriguez’s fate. New York State has a “Central Register” of people “substantiated” of child abuse and neglect, just like Tennessee and Michigan . Vanessa’s was probably “substantiated,” so there goes her ability to find employment with children, work in areas with children, or adopt another child, should she choose to do so.

Rodriguez will have to work through her misdemeanor charges, paying for legal fees and any court costs that stem from the proceedings. She will have to navigate the byzantine rules of New York State’s Office of Children and Family Services, and abide by their every whim in order to see her two year old daughter again.  When New York State attempts to justify the separation of the Rodriguez family, she will more than likely have charges fall under the category of “Child Maltreatment,” which the Office of Children and Family Services says includes “lack of supervision.”

I’m still scratching my head over where the “lack of supervision” comes from this case. Rodriguez saw her daughter was “acting loopy,” and took the child to the hospital when it became clear at-home treatment would not suffice.  Because the work of well-intentioned social workers willing to do anything “for the good of children” is a tale as old as time, I suspect the court documents will point to the existence of a marijuana brownie in the home and that Rodriguez left her two-year-old daughter in or near the presence of it long enough of her to take a bite as justification for “lack of supervision.” Shamira Gonzalez, one of Vanessa’s friends, seems to think the entire case is unfounded and that Rodriguez did the right thing by her daughter.

Rodriguez’s longtime friend, Shamira Gonzalez, defended her as a loving mother of five, and called the case a misunderstanding.

Gonzalez, 27, offered a different version of what happened.

“Somebody gave it to her at a Christmas party. At that point, she didn’t know what it was.”

The brownie tasted bad, so Rodriguez tossed it into the trash, and the girl fished it out, according to Gonzalez.

“She didn’t know any better. She just saw chocolate … She must have tasted it and spit it out. The piece that was there only had a little bite.”

Gonzalez said Rodriguez was a responsible parent.

“She took her to the hospital, like any good mother. She thought it tasted bad. She didn’t think it had marijuana,” Gonzalez said.

Unfortunately for Gonzalez, the State of New York has determined her assessment of Vanessa Rodriguez’s parenting skills was wrong.  She is a Bad Parent because the Office of Children and Family Services said so, and now Rodriguez and her two year old daughter will spend the holidays apart. The next time Rodriguez sees her daughter, it could again be in a hospital.  This time with a feeding tube inserted and a friendly social worker asking if Vanessa Rodriguez has life insurance on her daughter.  It’s not like it hasn’t happened before.

My Fault Lines colleague, Ken Womble, mused when alerting me of this story “Tis the season for giving (children life long trauma).” Truer words were never spoken.

6 Comments on this post.

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  • Ken Womble
    23 December 2015 at 11:27 am - Reply

    It seems to me like it has less to do with mom leaving a pot brownie out (allegedly), but with a mom having pot at all. It makes it very easy for ACS or CPS to use marijuana as a bright line rule. Has pot, bad parent. No pot, potentially not a bad parent. But only the most naive among us would think that a parent that safely indulges in an occasional toke or two is unfit in any way.

    • CLS
      23 December 2015 at 5:44 pm - Reply


      Ah yes, the dread marihuana…that which makes your wives, sisters and daughters listen to the jazz music and sleep with minorities. Hey, Harry Anslinger said it, I daresay most CPS workers are forced to watch “Reefer Madness” for their training, so that means yes. Pot=bad parent.

      But at this point we honestly don’t know if it’d be what they call “Lack of supervision,” “drug exposed child,” or whatever, because the DCS/ACS/CPS/You Pick An Acronym proceedings are by and large confidential and closed door. They make you sign forms in Tennessee on admin hearings over DCS stuff that the entire proceeding is confidential and that you can’t use any testimony or evidence presented in an actual, big-boy court.

      One thing that raises my blood pressure a few points. They wear badges, have acronyms and job titles like CPS, FSW, and more, and yet they are subject to less scrutiny than cops. And they can take your kids and ruin your life with the authority of the state.


  • Keith
    23 December 2015 at 2:24 pm - Reply

    Individual, and societal risk from a kid taking less than a bite of a pot brownie is far less than the harm taking this parent away from the kid will bring.

    This brings to mind the post a while back from Matt Brown entitled “When the Choice Is Medical Care or Jail” about the policy of deporting people seeking treatment.

    At some point, you need to look at the effects of your policy to determine if they create a greater harm.

    • CLS
      23 December 2015 at 5:46 pm - Reply


      The infuriating thing is that they do look at their policies. They just try to figure out ways to create greater harm and get more taxpayer dollars, and then justify it because it’s good to protect kids.

      And no one can argue that. We all want kids protected. And there are kids in CPS’s purview who have been through some tragic stuff.

      But you are dead on the money about the harm to this two year old.

  • Eva
    23 December 2015 at 4:14 pm - Reply

    Just recently in Calif. there were two dead children (last name Tara’s) from alledge abuse from the aunt. From what I understand the local Social Services was aware of problems within that family. I believe the elder sister was found neglected and abused too. (She is alive).

    So I don’t understand how wide the range of CPS attention can be regarding addressing issues of potential child abuse. Obviously the Tara children’s case is a tragic extreme case. I wonder how CPS did not adequately address that tragic issue and yet have this mother (& her childj) who you described go through which would appear to me such extreme measures. I know that I am not an expert of how a Social worker operates but truly I don’t understand such a divergent approach to those separate situations.

    • CLS
      23 December 2015 at 5:50 pm - Reply


      There are three answers to that which you address.

      The first is the view of the average CPS worker: There’s only so much time, money, and energy we have, and there’s so many kids and so many calls and so much we have to do with so little resources.

      The second is that from those who’ve worked juvenile justice: there’s “code words” that will make a call to a child abuse hotline get flagged for a referral, and there’s ones that will make the bad DCS people go away. And when DCS/CPS gets involved on a case, they’re not looking to help. They’re there to figure out how quickly to take the child and put them where they please.

      The third is simply social workers that handle these jobs mean well and can’t do them. And I believe there’s something in a proverb about how the road to hell is paved…