Wednesday, September 21, 2016

8.3 Million Children In Danger -- Mom and Dad High On Endangerment


What if I told you that 12 percent of the children in a country are at great risk each day? That means that 8.3 million children under 18 years of age in this place are in peril and face constant danger? Isn't it terrible that young people anywhere should live with such strife and endangerment? It sounds like the horrible reality of existence in a terrorist state or in a third-world country like Iraq, Afghanistan, or Haiti. However, I am speaking of a modern, civilized place.

I'm talking about the United States of America.

It was reported that in 2014, 21.5 million Americans 12 or older (8.1%) have a substance use disorder.

(Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for
Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Rockville, MD: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.)

How does this affect innocent children, you ask?

In the U.S. an estimated 12 percent of children live with a parent who is dependent on or who abuses alcohol or other drugs. Based on data from the period 2002 to 2007, 8.3 million children in America under 18 years of age lived with at least one substance-dependent or substance-abusing parent. This, in the nation claiming to be the cradle of love and commitment.

(“Parental substance use and the child welfare system.” Child Welfare Information Gateway. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. 2014.)

Parental substance abuse is a major factor contributing to child abuse and neglect. In a 1999 report to Congress, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reported that studies showed that between one-third and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases were affected by substance use to some degree. More recent research reviews suggest that the range may be even wider

(R. Barth. “Preventing child abuse and neglect with parent training: Evidence and opportunities. Future of Children, 19. 2009.)

(D. Traube. “The missing link to child safety, permanency, and well-being: Addressing substance misuse in child welfare. Social Work Research, 36. 2012.)

Addiction is a family disease that is in a class of its own – the physical and mental repercussions destroy not only the addicts but also everyone surrounding them. And, of course, the negative effects of parental alcohol and drug addiction continue as the children of addicted parents enter adulthood themselves with dramatically increased odds of being dependent and of being more likely to abuse their own children. This cyclic trend produces more and more children born into underprivileged homes and neighborhoods who face imminent endangerment and abuse.

The children in an addictive home develop unhealthy coping mechanisms while attempting to preserve the family unit. They experience extreme stress, guilt, anger, and denial, and they are often emotionally and physically deprived. Most feel confusion and a diminished sense of self-worth. Is it any wonder many of these children resort to taking drugs or to engaging in other addictive behaviors to escape their unhealthy family atmosphere?

Can you imagine being a youngster and developing perceptions based on so much deceit? Consider the truth of such statements as these:

“Mom's taking a nap.” Truth: She has passed out.

“Dad's working late.” Truth: He is out getting high.

“Grandma isn’t feeling good.” Truth: She’s dope sick.

“We can't afford to let you (the kids) go to the game.” Truth: We spent it all on drugs.

“Mom and Dad are going to town.” Truth: They are dealing drugs.

“Dad got laid off at work.” Truth: He failed the drug test.

Who faces irreparable damage as a substance takes control of a life? Of course, the addict does. But, consider the children. The tremendous burden of repairing these children – providing them needed care and taking control of their welfare and well-being – falls directly upon society. Relatives and foster parents, usually with aid from the government, must step up and properly raise these injured innocents.
So many mothers and fathers are not taking responsibility. Consider the numbers who do not raise their children and who do not contribute full assistance. Family structure is changing. According to U.S. Census figures, 1 in 3 children in America (15 million) live without their father. In addition, 4.9 million American children are being raised solely by their grandparents. This number is almost double that of the 2000 Census (2.4 million).

In Ohio, heroin use by the parents or caregivers is skyrocketing as a factor in child custody cases. Figures run by the state human services agency show almost 7,000 instances where heroin was cited in child custody cases in 2013, an 83 percent increase from three years earlier.

The state’s analysis found 3,726 references to heroin in child-custody cases in 2010, compared with 6,827 in 2013, according to the numbers produced by the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.  
The average stay in foster care is 70 days, but that number jumps to 300 days for children of parents addicted to drugs or alcohol, says Gayle Channing Tenenbaum, governmental affairs director for the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. 
(Associated Press. “Heroin use soars as factor in removal of Ohio children from parents in custody cases. The Toledo Blade. May 14, 2014.)
The horrendous fact is that estrangement from family and other social supports also endangers an entire generation of youth. Admittedly, these children likely love their parents. Yet, great numbers of them are at significant risks from parents that abuse drugs and alcohol.

In early drug use, before family finances are affected, there may be no signs of neglect. But as drug use spirals out of control, that's usually when problems arise. Their lives turn chaotic and unpredictable. Many children lack even their basic needs of nutrition, supervision, and nurturing are lacking.

Often, due to this neglect, there is no choice but to have Children Services place endangered children in foster homes.

Patricia Harrelson, director of Richland County, Ohio Children Services, said ...

"We've had children as young as 2 years old testing positive (for drugs) as a result of inadequate supervision. ... That's what we're dealing with on a daily basis...

"I often see parents who know their kids are safe and continue to use. We remove one of the things that may make them think twice. Heroin pretty much makes you forget you have kids, at least when you're high.”

(Jona Ison. “As heroin use spikes, Ohio children feel the brunt.” The Newark Advocate. May 23, 2015.)

"The child welfare system in and of itself is not going to solve this problem," said Tim Dick, assistant director for Clermont County Children Services.

The problem needs a team approach from child welfare, judicial and drug treatment agencies, Dick said, adding that the primary purpose of the report was to get people talking and planning.

Ohio also has at least 16 similar courts targeted for families. Expanding those courts is among the solutions suggested.

The biggest hurdle is ensuring there is treatment not only available in the family's county but also that there's enough to serve the community's needs.

 "Regardless of what county these addicts live in and where their children are removed from, the treatment needs to be in that county. ... We can't have them be on a waiting list," Dick said.

The waiting list is especially problematic in child welfare cases because children services agencies are required to eventually file for permanent removal so children aren't languishing in temporary families, Dick said.

"With drug addiction, especially with an addiction like opiates, recovery takes a lengthy period of time. So to have a six-month delay, they're already being set up (for failure)," Dick said.

(Jona Ison. “As heroin use spikes, Ohio children feel the brunt.” The Newark Advocate. May 23, 2015.)

As responsible citizens, it is up to us to advocate for vulnerable children who are not in a position to advocate for themselves. To ignore this problem or to simply “wish it away” assures a future of escalating drug abuse. Saving these children with swift action is paramount. Addicts need rehabilitation, and children need adequate care.

Allow me to advocate. I believe we need to foster a change in attitude concerning parenthood. We need to hold each parent responsible for the welfare of their children. Relatives, friends, teachers, counselors, courts, and governments cannot replace the roles of “mom and dad.” The village is there for support, not for primary care. Becoming a parent demands a sober mind and a continued commitment for decades.

Now, it seems to me as if there is a significant attitude reflecting a lack of responsibility – a reliance of dependence upon someone else to raise needy children if the case may arise. I believe this is a fault of dependent parents, no matter how much they claim they may care for their children. As difficult as owning responsibility of raising children may be to consenting adults, they have chosen their circumstances. What once was “I” became “we” through free will, and this decision to produce offspring demands the couple accept the charge to raise healthy, happy children in a loving environment.

Oh, I know the disease of addiction controls the minds and actions of addicts. Addicts are the model of irresponsibility. They are sick and in need of help, in no condition to be around children, much less raise them. Therefore, drug dependency must prevent initial procreation. That view is harsh. It is realistic. It is not dependent upon a myriad of variables. Why? Because it helps insure proper child care for all innocent children.

Right now, we, as a nation, must stress the tremendous obligations inherent in being a father or a mother. Any person engaging in risky activities knowingly endangers a son or a daughter. Prospective fathers and mothers must choose not to risk substance abuse in the first place. And, if they do not care and do so anyway, they exacerbate the cycle of dependency and addiction that rips the fabric of American families to shreds. It is both morally wrong and criminal to subject children to abuse.

No person wants to share the misery of addiction with loved ones; however, by being linked with those who love them, millions do each day. Those are the cold, hard facts and the simple hope of a future generation. Prevention first and foremost.


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