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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
Methamphetamine Orphans 
13th-Jul-2005 08:27 am
Mommy & Elayna
This could have been her life.

I cried reading this.

I'm so glad I left. So glad that I got out - that I knew that I had to leave.

Because this is the thing: In my opinion, the minute you get pregnant, the minute you know you're pregnant, it's not about you anymore. You no longer have the right to recreationally fuck yourself up.

The baby is not consenting to this, man.

The minute you know you're pregnant, it's not about you anymore.

I left Vegas, then left Arizona, came back to Florida, quit drugs cold turkey, because I was pregnant. Because Elayna deserved a chance. A choice. Because it was not about me anymore.

If I hadn't... this could have been her life.

New York Times article. Reproduced below the cut so you don't have to register.

A Drug Scourge Creates Its Own Form of Orphan

TULSA, Okla., July 8 - The Laura Dester Shelter here is licensed for 38 children, but at times in the past months it has housed 90, forcing siblings to double up in cots. It is supposed to be a 24-hour stopping point between troubled homes and foster care, but with foster homes backed up, children are staying weeks and sometimes months, making it more orphanage than shelter, a cacophony of need.

In a rocking chair, a volunteer uses one arm to feed a 5-day-old boy taken from his mother at birth, the other to placate a toddler who is wandering from adult to adult begging, "Bottle?" A 3-year-old who arrived at dawn shrieks as salve is rubbed on her to kill the lice.

This is a problem methamphetamine has made, a scene increasingly familiar across the country as the number of foster children rises rapidly in states hit hard by the drug, the overwhelming number of them, officials say, taken from parents who were using or making methamphetamine.

Oklahoma last year became the first state to ban over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain the crucial ingredient needed to make methamphetamine. Even so, the number of foster children in the state is up 16 percent from a year ago. In Kentucky, the numbers are up 12 percent, or 753 children, with only seven new homes.

In Oregon, 5,515 children entered the system in 2004, up from 4,946 the year before, and officials there say the caseload would be half what it is now if the methamphetamine problem suddenly went away. In Tennessee, state officials recently began tracking the number of children brought in because of methamphetamine, and it rose to 700 in 2004 from 400 in 2003.

While foster populations in cities rose because of so-called crack babies in the 1990's, methamphetamine is mostly a rural phenomenon, and it has created virtual orphans in areas without social service networks to support them. in Muskogee, an hour's drive south of here, a group is raising money to convert an old church into a shelter because there are none.

Officials say methamphetamine's particularly potent and destructive nature and the way it is often made in the home conspire against child welfare unlike any other drug.

It has become harder to attract and keep foster parents because the children of methamphetamine arrive with so many behavioral problems; they may not get into their beds at night because they are so used to sleeping on the floor, and they may resist toilet training because they are used to wearing dirty diapers.

"We used to think, you give these kids a good home and lots of love and they'll be O.K.," said Esther Rider-Salem, the manager of Child Protective Services programs for the State of Oklahoma. "This goes above and beyond anything we've seen."

Although the methamphetamine problem has existed for years, state officials here and elsewhere say the number of foster children created by it has spiked in the last year or two as growing awareness of the drug problem has prompted more lab raids, and more citizens reporting suspected methamphetamine use.

Nationwide, the Drug Enforcement Administration says that over the last five years 15,000 children were found at laboratories where methamphetamine was made. But that number vastly understates the problem, federal officials say, because it does not include children whose parents use methamphetamine but do not make it and because it relies on state reporting, which can be spotty.

On July 5, the National Association of Counties reported that 40 percent of child welfare officials surveyed nationwide said that methamphetamine had caused a rise in the number of children removed from homes.

The percentage was far higher on the West Coast and in rural areas, where the drug has hit the hardest. Seventy-one percent of counties in California, 70 percent in Colorado and 69 percent in Minnesota reported an increase in the number of children removed from homes because of methamphetamine.

In North Dakota, 54 percent of counties reported a methamphetamine-related increase. At what was billed as a "community meeting on meth" in Fargo this year, the state attorney general, Wayne Stenehjem, exhorted the hundreds of people packed into an auditorium: "People always ask, what can they do about meth? The most important thing you can do is become a foster parent, because we're just seeing so many kids being taken from these homes."

Officials also say methamphetamine has made it harder to reunite families once the child is taken; 59 percent of those surveyed in the national counties study agreed.

The federal Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, enacted as babies born to crack users were crowding foster care, requires states to begin terminating parental rights if a child has spent 15 out of 22 months in foster care. It was intended to keep children from languishing in foster homes. But rehabilitation for methamphetamine often takes longer than other drugs, and parents fall behind the clock.

"Termination of parental rights almost becomes the regular piece," said Jerry Foxhoven, the administrator of the Child Advocacy Board in Iowa. "We know pretty early that these families are not going to get back together."

The drug - smoked, ingested or injected - is synthetic, cheap and easy to make in home labs using pseudoephedrine, the ingredient in many cold medicines, and common fertilizers, solvents or battery acid. The materials are dangerous, and highly explosive.

"Meth adds this element of parents who think they are rocket scientists and want to cook these chemicals in the kitchen," said Yvonne Glick, a lawyer at the Department of Human Services in Oklahoma who works with the state's alliance for drug endangered children. "They're on the couch watching their stuff cook, and the kids are on the floor watching them."

The drug also produces a tremendous and long-lasting rush, with intense sexual desire. As a result of the sexual binges, some child welfare officials say, methamphetamine users are having more children. More young children are entering the foster system, often as newborns suffering from the effects of their mother's use of the drug.

Oklahoma was recently chosen to participate in a federally financed study of the effects of methamphetamine on babies born to addicted mothers. Doctors who work with them have already found that the babies are born with trouble suckling or bonding with their parents, who often abuse the children out of frustration.

But the biggest problem, doctors who work with children say, is not with those born under the effects of the drug but with the children who grow up surrounded by methamphetamine and its attendant problems. Because users are so highly sexualized, the children are often exposed to pornography or sexual abuse, or watch their mothers prostitute themselves, the welfare workers say.

The drug binges tend to last for days or weeks, and the crash is tremendous, leaving children unwashed and unfed for days as parents fall into a deep sleep.

"The oldest kid becomes the parent, and the oldest kid may be 4 or 5 years old," said Dr. Mike Stratton, a pediatrician in Muskogee, Okla., who is involved with a state program for children exposed to drugs that is run in conjunction with the Justice Department. "The parents are basically worthless, when they're not stoned they're sleeping it off, when they're not sleeping they don't eat, and it's not in their regimen to feed the kids."

Ms. Glick recalls a group of siblings found eating plaster at a home filled with methamphetamine. The oldest, age 6, was given a hamburger when they arrived at the Laura Dester Shelter; he broke it apart and handed out bits to his siblings before taking a bite himself.

Jay Wurscher, director of alcohol and drug services for the children and families division of the Oregon Department of Human Services, said, "In every way, shape and form, this is the worst drug ever for child welfare."

Child welfare workers say they used to remove children as a last resort, first trying to help with services in the home.

But everywhere there are reminders of the dangers of leaving children in homes with methamphetamine. In one recent case here, an 18-month-old child fell onto a heating unit on the floor and died while the parents slept; a 3-year-old sibling had tried to rouse them.

The police who raid methamphetamine labs say they try to leave the children with relatives, particularly in rural areas, where there are few other options.

But it has become increasingly clear, they say, that often the relatives, too, are cooking or using methamphetamine. And because the problem has hit areas where there are so few shelters, children are often placed far from their parents. Caseworkers have to drive children long distances to where parents are living or imprisoned for visits; Leslie Beyer, a caseworker at Laura Dester, logged 3,600 miles on her car one month.

The drain of the cases is forcing foster families to leave the system, or caseworkers to quit. In some counties in Oklahoma, Ms. Rider-Salem said, half the caseworkers now leave within two years.

After the ban on over-the-counter pseudoephedrine was enacted - a law other states are trying to emulate - the number of children taken out of methamphetamine labs and into the foster care system in Oklahoma declined by about 15 percent, Ms. Glick said. But she said the number of children found not in the labs but with parents who were using the drug had more than compensated for any decline.

The state's only other children's shelter, in Oklahoma City, was so crowded recently that the fire marshal threatened to shut it down, forcing the state to send children to foster families in far-flung counties.

At Laura Dester, three new children arrived on one recent morning, the 3-year-old being treated for lice and two siblings, found playing in an abandoned house while their mother was passed out at home. The girl now wanders with a plastic bag over her hair to keep the lice salve from leaking. She hugs her little brother, then grabs a plastic toy phone out of his hand, leaving him wailing.

"Who's on the phone?" asks Kay Saunders, the assistant director at the shelter, gently trying to intervene.

"My mom," the girl says, then turns to her little brother. "It's ringing!"
13th-Jul-2005 05:37 am (UTC)
... wow.
13th-Jul-2005 05:40 am (UTC)
Such hell her life would have been, had I loved the drug more than I loved her potential.

And I did love the drug.

But I loved the potential little person more.

Just... my chest feels tight, having read this....
13th-Jul-2005 05:47 am (UTC)
Like you said, you loved the drug. So did I.

I watched parents lose their children. I watched kids toddle around while we scooped lines onto the coffe table.

Looking back, I don't get it. I don't get how that little creature didn't snap those people out of their fog.

Then again, I remember what it was like. And I sure did love meth.
13th-Jul-2005 05:51 am (UTC)
I remember being in a house where the only rule was that you didn't actually do lines in front of the kid.

But they'd leave packets on the back of the toilet tank, totally within her reach.

I remember moving stuff on top of the medicine cabinet whenever I went to the bathroom. But that's all I ever did. Too drug-addled and stupid.

I hope that little girl's okay.

Her name was Hope. I'd google, but I never knew her last name... she'd be 12 now.
(Deleted comment)
13th-Jul-2005 05:53 am (UTC)
And I breathed a sigh of relief because at least, where she is now, she can't get her hands on the drug and her child is safe.


Somedays, though, I feel like I'm putting a band-aid on a broken arm.

*nods* I understand. It's up to them. Hopefully detoxing - if she's there long enough to detox - will snap her out of it. Will help her see her choices.
13th-Jul-2005 06:21 am (UTC)
the minute you know you're pregnant, it's not about you anymore

Can't tell you how many people I see who haven't figured that out yet.

I left Vegas, then left Arizona, came back to Florida, quit drugs cold turkey, because I was pregnant. Because Elayna deserved a chance. A choice. Because it was not about me anymore.

13th-Jul-2005 08:20 am (UTC) - it's not about you anymore
Seems to me that most parents never get the idea that it's about the children. Usually their failings are subtler than this, but still it's commonplace.

It's a wonder to me that the human race has survived more than a generation.
13th-Jul-2005 06:34 am (UTC)
Okay, now that I've had my morning cry...reading about how phenomenally addictive meth is, makes me wonder how you went cold turkey, and what that experience was like. have you ever written about it? Either way, I'm glad you did quit because otherwise neither you nor Elayna would be here and reading about you makes my day.
13th-Jul-2005 07:16 am (UTC)
Jesus fuck, that was hard. *little laugh*

Basically, that's why I went home to Florida. Much as I hated my parents, little as we got along, much as it hurt my pride. Because I knew that I was not going to be able to quit if I stayed in Vegas or Arizona, around people who were doing it. Like you said: phenomenally addictive. It's one thing to stand there and make that decision, to say "I am quitting this drug for the sake of my unborn child."

It's another to say it - and then remain in a house where people are doing it in front of you every day. Have to say it every day. Watching. Remembering how good it felt as you watched them.

Sooner or later... I don't know. I cannot guarantee that I wouldn't have caved. I can't claim to be that strong.

So I did what I had to do: I left the situation. I went to a place where I had no meth connections, and where I'd be watched like a hawk even if they didn't know I was detoxing.

Yeah. Detox = no fun. But also easily passed off to one's family as simply a difficult early pregnancy.
13th-Jul-2005 06:43 am (UTC)
This is really sad.

Elayna sounds fab, so you're obviously doing something very right.

This is really none of my business, and please don't hesitate not to answer because it's a sensitive area, but do you believe in the right to choose? No political loading, just a thought triggered by your post.
13th-Jul-2005 06:51 am (UTC)
I do. As I was writing my comments, it occurred to me that my general opinion could be misconstrued....

I'll probably do a full post on it later. but in very brief:

I am pro-choice. I believe in the right of every woman to choose.

I myself cannot see a circumstance where I personally would choose abortion.

I have absolutely no right to force any person to choose according to my opinions. Absolutely no right. Neither does anyone else.

I have friends who have had abortions. I have friends who've given babies up for adoption. I have friends who have had and kept babies. And I honor all of their choices.

I am glad that I have a choice. *nod*
13th-Jul-2005 06:46 am (UTC)
Why i'm sober today. Why i'm the birthparent of two. I couldn't drag them into it, and I was too terrified that i'd become one of *those* parents.

For me it was alcohol and speed.

I really need to hug my daughter about now.
13th-Jul-2005 06:52 am (UTC)
Yeah, me too. And she's 600 miles away, dammit.
13th-Jul-2005 07:16 am (UTC)
I have three boys.

Two of them, I gave birth to. Morgan, and Sam. 15 and 14, respectively.

The third, I took in almost a year ago. Brett. 15, and his birthday is actually five days from Morgan's.

Brett's mother has been on drugs for years. Meth, primarily. His father (they're divorced) is an abusive asshole.

This child has been exposed to SO much, and it hurts my heart to hear his stories. But I listen, because no one else ever has. And I honor his stories and his experiences, because someone needs to.

He's an amazing kid, and he's blossomed since he moved in with us. He told me the other day, when relating something he'd just learned about his parents, "What is WRONG with my freaking family?! I'm glad I ended up in this one, but I wish I could have STARTED here!"

I work with Deaf people who've been victims of violence. Too many of them are also addicts. And too many of their children are suffering for their parents' transgressions.

Iowa enacted a law like the one mentioned in the article this past spring. I hear people bitching all the time about having to register to buy cold medicine. I never complain. If it means one less child has to suffer through the things MY child has had to suffer through, then it's worth every single bit of inconvenience.

Thank you for sharing the article. And thank you MORE for what you did.
19th-Jul-2005 07:14 am (UTC)
*hugs you fiercely*
13th-Jul-2005 08:01 am (UTC)
When I was in active addiction the only thing that mattered was finding more. I didn't see my kids for six months, my parents hated me, I had scarring acne all over my face, my hair was falling out, I weighed 115lbs at 5'8", and even the day that I planned out just how I was going to off myself, I got more dope. Quitting "cold turkey" was not an option for me. At least not on my own.

I think the point I want to address here is the idea that any addict can just give it right up. I hated myself and I hated the things I did. And I hated that goddamned drug. And while meth is not physically addictive, per se, it is extremely psychological addictive. And it does live its mark physiologically. My brain chemicals were FUCKED when I finally stopped. And they still are to this day. I will never be the same. I didn't want to use at all for the last six months or so of my using. The thing that led me to decide to off myself was the thought of how much better off my kids would be with a dead mother instead of a junkie mother. If I could have quit cold turkey at that point I absolutely would have. But addiction isn't something that most of us can just switch off. I'm in Narcotics Anonymous now because I know full well that I cannot do it on my own. I haven't used meth in three years, but it can very well come right back at any time if I start to listen to that little beast that is still in my head. That little beast will probably always be in my head. The only difference now is that I have a choice.

If you were able to quit cold turkey and walk right away from it, that's awesome. But remember that this is not an option for every addict. The parents of those children in this article couldn't just walk away from it. I can promise you, from personal experience, that those parents are living a hell on earth. My kids were not neglected. I was very fortunate to have an ex husband who is a wonderful father. And I don't mean in any way to excuse the parents of these children. But if the government thinks that outlawing cold medicine will stop the production of meth and will help these kids, then I say they are dangerously naive. Meth is an evil, nasty motherfucker. I believe it is more evil than heroin. It's cheaper to make and much, much more readily available. And it does nothing but completely destroy the users' lives. Meth addicts either get help and get out or they die. Period. Even if that help comes in the form of a jail term, they must get help to really get out. A guy I used to party with was found dead three weeks ago. He didn't get out. He even went to prison for a while. But it didn't stop his nasty beast.

Ok, I'm really rambling here, but I think my main point is this: Meth addicts will not be stopped by anyone insisting that they can just quit. It just doesn't work that way. Most meth addicts probably wish that it did. I tried to just quit several times before I finally got out. I believe that when we start focusing on treating the disease of addiction then we will see a significant decrease in horror stories like those in the article. Those kids don't deserve to live like that, but in order to stop it, you have to treat the problem at the source. Not blasting the addicts for being weak and selfish. This only feeds the disease. But giving the addicts a choice, a safe way out. Yes, they still have to face the consequences of what they've done. That's a vital part of recovery. But when there is no choice given to these people, they will take the only road they know.
13th-Jul-2005 08:03 am (UTC)
Dear God, I can't type. Please forgive all the type-os. I didn't proofread that and I am currently pre-coffee. Yikes.
13th-Jul-2005 08:01 am (UTC) - Growing up too fast.
"Ms. Glick recalls a group of siblings found eating plaster at a home filled with methamphetamine. The oldest, age 6, was given a hamburger when they arrived at the Laura Dester Shelter; he broke it apart and handed out bits to his siblings before taking a bite himself."

This is so sad that a 6 year has enough wisdom and generosity to feed his younger siblings before himself wgile his parents slowly kill themselves with drugs. But the drug comes first.

When my grand-father died, his sister was happy he didn't foo around on my grand-mother but my mom pointed out to her his mistress was the booze so he had no need for women. And his alcoholism can still be felt in the third generation to some degree.

I am glad a part of you had enough sense to know to leave for her sake and swallow your pride to return home to your parents who helped you get through the detoxification process. You are one the blessed ones.
13th-Jul-2005 08:10 am (UTC)
I'd like to leave the note here too - this is what TIES was all about. Being ready to foster/adopt a child exposed to drugs. Crack, yeah - heard about it. Meth? Bring it - I'm ready. It's not the drugs that do the damage, folks.

It's all the socio-emotional crud that does the damage.

Also - prenatal exposure to alcohol does the most permanent, lasting damage of all. Meth, kids can recover from - with good homes and good parenting.

This has been at issue in California for over ten years. And you know which neighborhoods have the meth problems. They're the ones whose jobs are now off-shore or in Texas.
13th-Jul-2005 09:02 am (UTC)
This is heartbreaking.
13th-Jul-2005 09:31 am (UTC)
My biggest failure in lie, and the only real regret that I had is that I became an addict AFTER my son's birth and left GA and moved to CA to quit cold turkey 4 weeks before becoming pregnant with my daughter. My husband was never able to quit. And so I had to leave him, too.

My son should have been taken from during that time. And how I managed to be so blessed as to escape that consequence, I will never understand and never quit being so grateful for.
19th-Jul-2005 07:09 am (UTC)
*hugs* I'm glad you finally managed to quit. I'm glad you came back.
13th-Jul-2005 09:33 am (UTC)
"We used to think, you give these kids a good home and lots of love and they'll be O.K.," said Esther Rider-Salem, the manager of Child Protective Services programs for the State of Oklahoma. "This goes above and beyond anything we've seen."

Heartbreaking to consider how many of these kids are just going to be lost to the system. They'll never find enough foster workers able to cope with some of the intense emotional and developemental problems alot of these kid will have. Some of them just aren't equipped to deal.
Think about that! Think how many of these kids will never have a normal happy life, never be afforded any of the opportunities we take for granted, possibly never have a normal relationship, or be in and out of jail, or be addicts themselves. When you look at your own children you see infinite potential, infinite possibility. They're full of such energy. And if your like me it's doubly fascinating because you really can't remember the last time you felt like that, but, luckily, it is slightly contagious. You can see them as doctors, or as starving artists, flat broke, covered in paint, and smiling ear to ear with the joy of creation...or any one of a million things in between. Could you imagine them living in filth and neglect? Abuse?
I want to throttle the parents. Then throttle the dealers. Then burn the labs.
If I had anyone to pray to I'd pray for those kids.
13th-Jul-2005 11:54 am (UTC)
I've heard the stories all before, mostly from... Well, my mom.
Although not with meth, during a few years before my birth, mom hit the drug scene pretty goddamn hard. Even though she didn't quit everything cold turkey (She was a pack a day smoker, quit now, 8 years =D!) she did quit everything else for me, which I'm grateful for.

She never thought she'd be raising a kid going to one of the best universities in Western Canada.
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