HTTP/1.0 200 OK Content-Type: text/html State Meth Crackdown Not Reducing Child Abuse
Pubdate: Mon, 19 Dec 2005
Source: Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier, The  (IA)
Copyright: 2005 The Associated Press
Author: Amy Lorentzen, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


DES MOINES  -- Despite the state's crackdown on methamphetamine labs,
a new study says the number of child welfare cases involving parental
meth use in southwest Iowa has remained steady over the past two years
at about 49 percent.

The study was conducted by Carol Gutchewsky, a social work
administrator in western Iowa. She looked at ongoing child welfare
cases in the Iowa Department of Human Services' Council Bluffs Service
Delivery Area, a 16 county area.

Gutchewsky said she did the study because many social workers were
reporting an increasing number of child abuse cases where meth was

According to the study, of 1,469 child abuse cases examined in 2003,
720 involved parental meth use. In 2005, 781 of 1,605 cases involved
parental meth use. Both account for about half of the cases handled in
that area.

Gutchewsky said her study looked only at known meth use, not suspected
use. That included parents who were arrested, had positive drug tests
or gave birth to babies with meth in their systems.

The numbers are somewhat higher than what state officials have
reported, partly because the state uses a different measurement. State
data on parental meth use includes only two categories:
manufacturing/possessing dangerous substances in the presence of a
child, and presence of illegal substances in the child's system.

Roger Munns, a spokesman for the DHS, said Gutchewsky's numbers don't
conflict with what the state has observed in its investigations.

According to a Prevent Child Abuse Iowa report, 14,499 child abuse
reports were filed in 2004, the second highest number ever. That
number was just below the all-time high of 14,936 children reported
abused in 2003, the report said.

The report showed that in 2004, there were 1,713 cases where there was
the presence of illegal drugs in a child's body as a result of actions
of a parent or other caretaker. The DHS confirmed that there were 299
children present when parents or a caretaker were involved in
manufacturing meth.

"When looked at strictly categorically, the (state) abuse findings can
minimize the extent of drug involvement," Gutchewsky said in the study
results. "There's lots of drug activity hidden behind or within all of
Iowa's categories of child abuse."

She said she considered cases such as where the mother may abandon her
child for days on end to use drugs. Failing to arrange for care of the
child would constitute neglect under state standards, but since there
would be a drug element, that case was counted in her study.

Gutchewsky said her study focuses solely on the most serious cases
that require the DHS's continued involvement, whereas the state
figures include cases under assessment for child abuse. In some cases,
she said meth use has been acknowledged by DHS officials, but there
wasn't enough evidence to warrant an abuse finding specific to drug

Steve Scott, executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Iowa, called it
a unique study, saying that it covers areas other agencies don't report.

"She catches what's below the surface," he said. "I think it's really
bad news for Iowa, but it's not surprising news because this just has
become a real scourge for families."

The DHS's Munns called the results sobering.

"I think that this points to the fact that it is still a very serious
problem," he said.

Although meth lab busts have decreased as a new state law make it
harder for meth cooks to get the ingredients needed to make the drug,
Gutchewsky said users are addicts and continue to find ways to obtain

She praised the new law, which she said keeps kids safer by making it
less likely a child will be exposed to a working meth lab. However,
she said there's more work needed.

"The fact remains that we still have the same number of meth-using
parents, and meth-using parents don't provide very good care for
children," she said in the findings.

Munns agreed.

"I think you have to conclude that the efforts by legislators last
spring to make it more difficult to have homegrown shops ... while
beneficial, has not significantly slowed the supply of this drug," he

Dale Woolery, a spokesman with the Governor's Office of Drug Control
Policy, said in the first six months of enforcement of the law that
restricts sales of pseudoephedrine -- a common cold medicine used to
make meth -- the number of meth lab busts dropped more than 80 percent.

That means the law is serving it's intended purpose, he

However, he said the study does show that a person doesn't always have
to be cooking meth in a lab to endanger a child.

Although the study covers just one region of the state, Woolery agreed
there's still work ahead in curbing meth use.

"It begs for more to be done to make sure that children are safer and
. break the cycle of addiction that keeps parents and other
caregivers using meth," he said.

In the end, Gutchewsky said it's important for people not to lose
sight that meth-addicted parents can put their lives back together.

"These parents can get treated, they can recover and these children
can return to their parents' care," she said.
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