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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Parents' meth use hurting children too

Monday, March 31, 2008

Clay County is mirroring a troubling national trend. More and more arrests are being made for possession, distribution and making of methamphetamine.

Mug shots of arrested users shows damage the drugs have done. But mug shots do not show the damage done at home.

Child welfare workers try to reduce the physical, emotional and psychological stress placed on children of meth users and producers.

According to a 2006 report by the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, in 2004, an estimated 418,000 parents had used methamphetamine in the past month.

More and more parents are using and making meth in the home.

The chemicals in meth are toxic, to adults and children alike, and the presence of a meth "lab" in the home increases the likelihood of neglect and child abuse.

Julie Romas, coordinator for Kids, Families and Community (KFC), said in her 26 years of counseling, she has seen a dramatic increase in the past three years of children whose parents use drugs, specifically meth.

The physical damage from living in an environment with meth to a child includes birth defects from prenatal exposure, developmental disorders and cognitive disabilities.

Cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat can accompany the external evidence, such as skin lesions and rashes.

Children in these situations often have poor nutrition, as meth decreases appetites in users and financial resources are spent on drugs instead of food.

"So much time and energy is spent on maintaining the habit, primary needs are neglected," Romas said.

Home meth labs pose extra dangers to children. The toxic chemicals used in production can contaminate food, release fumes during "cooking" and possibly could explode.

There is a higher risk of children ingesting the drug or chemicals, poisoning themselves.

Because a child is still developing, they absorb chemicals more readily through their skin, and "exhibit rapid heartbeat, agitation, inconsolable crying, irritability and vomiting," according to the NCWACW report.

In addition to these physical effects, there is little more known about the long-term effects of childhood exposure to meth.

"We don't know everything -- we're going to have to watch these kids develop," Hamilton Center Clay County Director Kathy Ocompo said.

Children of drug abusers usually have not seen a doctor or dentist recently and often have not had a full schedule of immunizations.

Physical evidence of neglect is easier to spot than the emotional trauma kids in this situation go through.

Romas said children in homes with drug abusers live in constant "upheaval." Meth users are more likely to experience depression and anxiety, and long-term use has been known to cause hallucinations and psychotic episodes.

Children can be exposed to intense arguing, constant moving, being kicked out of housing and a revolving door of strangers, especially in homes where trafficking or production occurs.

Lack of attention from a parent and the influx of strangers leave kids vulnerable to physical and sexual abuse.

This environment forces older children in households to take responsibility for their younger siblings, making it an unhealthy sibling relationship. Kids also develop trust and anxiety trouble.

Romas has witnessed children coming to school with the same clothes on three or four days in a row, because, "mom or dad or both are too stoned to change the kids' clothes."

According to Ocompo, children can sense when their parental unit is in trouble, and worry about them while at school. It distracts them from homework and classroom activities, and can manifest in unsocial behavior.

Children who have meth-using parents have no discipline structure at home and learn survival skills instead of acceptable social skills, according to Romas. They cannot control impulses, and as they get older, can exhibit anger issues.

Ocompo said, when working with children from drug abusing families, accepting positive attention is extremely hard for the kids to learn.

"Kids want attention, whether it's attention from yelling or saying 'good job,' it doesn't matter," Ocompo said.

Children must unlearn their survival skills, and relearn how to be a kid, Ocompo added.

Romas said she sees kids either react to their home environment or react with the problem.

Those who react to the problem at home are "emboldened to not make the same mistake," she said.

The children who react with their environment meld into their surroundings and become part of a continual pattern of drug abuse and neglect.

In their respective positions, both Romas and Ocompo work to help children move on from traumatic experiences caused by parents who use meth.

KFC makes sure children are attending school consistently by almost any means. Romas makes repeated phone calls to parents or family members, arranges neighbors to pick up children for school and has purchased alarm clocks so kids can get themselves up for school.

KFC will also recommend students and parents to the Hamilton Center to work on healing the trust issues, as well as work on addiction treatment and parenting skills.

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I am a former resident of Brazil, born and raised.You know it's really sad to see that our community is still dealing with this epidemic. These children that are placed in physical and health danger should be removed from the home immediately without the possibility of ever being returned to their thoughtless parents! I hope we have mentoring and fostering programs in place because the kids are gonna need a lot of TLC.

-- Posted by angelamcconnell on Tue, Apr 1, 2008, at 9:02 AM

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