Pubdate: Sun, 25 Jun 2006
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2006 The News-Gazette
Author: Steve Bauer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)
Bookmark: (Youth)


A 14-year-old boy said that after his mother started using 
methamphetamine, she no longer acted like a mom should.

In contrast, his 13-year-old brother believes the government is 
persecuting their father unfairly.

Their observations are among comments collected from children in 
foster care because their parents have used methamphetamine.

Such children face extra difficulties in foster care, according to a 
team of researchers looking at children from homes where parents have 
used meth. The team includes professionals from the University of 
Illinois School of Social Work, Department of Children and Family 
Services and Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. 
Related    Meth measures signed into law (6/6/06)

A second paper from the group, "A child's-eye view of parent 
methamphetamine abuse: implications for helping foster families to 
succeed," will be published in the journal Children and Youth 
Services Review and is available online at

Wendy Haight, an associate professor at the UI School of Social Work, 
lead researcher and first author of the paper, said the project began 
three years ago as workers at DCFS' Charleston field office noted an 
increase of children being placed in foster homes after their parents 
were caught with meth.

The initial research, published last year, reported on the effects of 
meth-abuse homes as seen by child care specialists, teachers and 
police in a seven-county area.

That paper, titled "In These Bleak Days: Parent Methamphetamine Abuse 
in the Rural Midwest," reported a variety of ways children whose 
parents used or manufactured methamphetamine are put at risk. The 
home-based labs used to cook meth have dangerous and toxic chemicals, 
and the meth users are often paranoid, armed and violent.

"Children's experience of this culture is characterized by 
environmental danger, chaos, neglect, isolation, abuse and loss," 
researchers wrote.

Haight said that finding was reinforced in the second paper through 
many comments from children, who reported being left alone and hungry 
by parents abusing meth. Three said they were physically abused, and 
others said they were told to steal and lie to authorities.

The research involved interviews with 18 children, ages 7 to 14, who 
had been placed in foster care. At the time of the interviews, they 
had been in foster care from five to 39 months.

"The vast majority of the kids we work with love their parents," Haight said.

Asked about their "scariest time," many children said it was when 
they were taken from their homes and placed in foster care.

"Many, months later, still mourn the loss of their parents," Haight 
said. "Children see their parents as sick. Kids are often in 
caretaking roles, not only for themselves and siblings, but also for 
their parents, in some cases."

Foster parents who take in children from meth homes often report that 
those children will not let them parent, Haight said. Some resist 
rules and struggle to fit into routines involving regular meal and 
bedtimes. And some display symptoms of trauma, including nightmares, 
fear of adults or attention problems.

But the research also showed there are variations. Not all of the 
children have mental health or substance abuse problems. Some 
embraced their parents' beliefs and lifestyles; others did not.

For example, one 14-year-old boy accused his mother of letting her 
children do drugs, drink alcohol and have sex. He reported her to police.

"You know, it was just horrible," the boy said. He did not want to 
return to her, saying, "She's lost her trust with me."

The 14-year-old boy also attributed abuse by his mother to her use of drugs.

"I don't think she expected to hit us that hard because she didn't 
know what she was doing, but sometimes, you know, it got out of 
hand," he told the researchers.

A 10-year-old girl told of her father beating up her mother "all the time."

"I would hit my dad because he wouldn't get off her," the girl said. 
"He would stand her up against the wall and started choking her. I 
kept on hitting him and kicked him."

She also reported her mother hit her father in the head with a hammer 
and then hit herself in the head.

In what Haight described as "an extreme case," a 9-year-old girl 
reported she was troubled by an incident when she was in 
kindergarten: "My mom got me high one time. She and a man were 
smoking dope under a blanket, and they put me under there and got me high."

Haight said a majority of the children interviewed need mental health 

"Most had very little emotional support," Haight said.

The researchers are using what they've learned to help foster parents 
and others who deal with such children, she said.

James Black, a psychiatrist at SIU, has worked with children and 
adults from meth homes. He also worked part-time at a state prison 
and with some fathers who used meth.

"Some of these children are some of the most severely affected by 
trauma and attachment disorder that I've ever worked with," Black said.

All children need to grow up in good homes and have good parents, but 
these children are detached from their parents and very neglected, he said.

"The parents are high or very exhausted," Black said. "Their parents' 
drug activity results in people coming into their homes who bring in 
dogs, weapons and dangerous materials.

"There is a lot of criminal behavior, a lot of bad people. A lot of 
these kids have seen things they shouldn't have seen."

He said some children in meth homes are not abused, but "kids who 
enter foster care are worse off in mental health than kids in the 
general community - and these kids are worse off than most who enter 
foster care.

"One of the problems is this is a rural issue, so resources are 
limited. It's hard enough to get doctors out here."

He said there is a "triple whammy" for many meth abusers not getting 
the help they need:

- - Part of rural culture is that families don't rely on or even accept 
government assistance.

- - Meth users don't want government contact because they are involved 
in criminal activity.

- - And there is a chemical or pharmaceutical consequence of using meth 
that causes meth users to become paranoid. So, for all those reasons, 
meth abusers tend not to get counseling, education or other assistance.
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MAP posted-by: Beth Wehrman