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There she was at Washington Hospital Center on an early spring afternoon, three days after giving birth. She'd be taking Luke home to the room she had lovingly prepared, to a time she'd dreamed about for years, just the two of them getting to know each other, reveling in the miracle of new life.
When nurses finally told Piper she was free to leave, no discharge papers for her son were brought out. Instead, she faced a parade of inquisitive official visitors, including uniformed police, a social worker, a psychiatrist, and assorted doctors and nurses. Her baby had been placed on medical hold while government investigators considered whether Piper was fit to take Luke home to Prince George's County, the authorities said. She had failed to bond with her baby, a nurse told Piper.
"She told me the burden was on me to prove that I should be allowed to take my baby home," says Piper, a lawyer who works at the U.S. Department of the Interior.
When a social worker asked for details of Luke's conception -- Piper is a single mother and, at 50, an unusually old one -- Piper concedes she blew up. "My attitude with her was confrontational because I was getting scared they would take my son from me," she says.
Astonishingly, that's a matter of debate. When I wrote about a similar case of overzealous child protection last year... But in that same case, Roque Gerald, then deputy chief of the city's child protection agency and now its head, criticized "defensive child welfare. In our attempt to protect, we have also lost the ability of balance for fear of retribution."