Hornet's nest...drug use/ foster care article


Well-Known Member
Wow, you can use "statistics" to say anything you want. This is interesting.
Those of you who do foster care, especially, may want to read this.


National Coalition for Child Protection Reform / 53 Skyhill Road (Suite 202) / Alexandria, Va., 22314 / [email protected] / http://www.nccpr.org



They may be the parents most of us would most like to punish. Mothers who seem to care so little for their children that they'd rather get high than take care of them. Mothers who can't or won't kick their habit even while they're pregnant.

No one really knows how many there are. The huge numbers bandied about by child savers are guesses, and the child savers have a vested interest in guessing high. Furthermore, guesses about the extent of "substance abuse" by parents lump together everything from the parent who sells her child for crack to the parent who had her child taken for a week at birth because she smoked one marijuana cigarette to ease the pain of labor. [1]

Myths about those who abuse drugs -- and their children – die hard. Even though the apocalyptic claims about children born with cocaine in their systems – and their mothers – proved to be false, the same false claims are being made now in connection with another drug: methamphetamine.

But the problem cannot be minimized either. The problem of drug abuse, like the problem of child abuse, is serious and real. And there is an enormous temptation to punish addicted parents. But do we want to punish their children?

We favor providing Intensive Family Preservation Services and other help to some families with substance abuse problems. But not because it's another chance for the parent. We favor such programs because they may be the only chance for the child.

Consider the case of Alice Porter (not her real name) of Newark, New Jersey.

She was a drug-addicted single mother with a 12-year-old boy. The boy was angry, unruly, defiant, and hitting his mother. She was too overwhelmed by addiction to give him the order and stability he needed. One option would be to take the boy away because his mother doesn't "deserve" another chance.

But what would happen to an angry "acting out" 12-year-old in foster care? Probably foster home after foster home, as foster parents found they could not cope with him. Then group home after group home. The odds that he would have been adopted are slim. The odds that he would have been abused in foster care are excellent, (See Issue Paper 1). And the odds that he would emerge unable to love or trust anyone after all those placements are overwhelming.

But none of that happened. Alice Porter's family was referred to a family preservation program in Newark. The mother became active in Narcotics Anonymous. She built her skills, getting the education she needs to find employment. Her son joined Al-Ateen and did well in school. Because he stayed at home, he saw his mother fight -- and win -- her battle with addiction. "That's one less negative role model in his life," says family preservation worker Marcello Gomez. "He's learning he can have a positive lifestyle, drug free."[2]

But what about infants? Would they do better taken from parents who have abused drugs? Often, the answer there too, is no. After examining what really happens to such babies Time Magazine concluded: "Staying at home with an addicted mother who is actively participating in a rehabilitation program can, in many cases, be the more promising and safer route for the child [Emphasis added]."[3]

In a University of Florida study of children born with cocaine in their systems – children often stigmatized with the label “crack babies” -- one group was placed in foster care, another group with birth mothers able to care for them. After one year, the babies were tested using all the usual measures of infant development: rolling over, sitting up, reaching out. Consistently, the children placed with their birth mothers did better. For the foster children, the separation from their mothers was more toxic than the cocaine [4]. Why help addicted mothers? Because it is extremely difficult to take a swing at "bad mothers" without the blow landing on their children. And if we really believe all the rhetoric about putting the children’s needs first, then those needs must come before everything, including how we may feel about their parents.

That doesn’t mean we can simply leave children with addicted parents. It does mean that drug treatment for the parents, including inpatient programs where parents can live with their children, are almost always a better first choice than foster care for the children.

Not all cases work out like the case of Alice Porter. In some cases, a parent's addiction and lack of interest in treatment combine to create a situation that requires immediate removal of the child. But Intensive Family Preservation programs have developed their impressive record of safety while working with drug addicted parents. Michigan's program, for example, has an exemplary safety record, (See Issue Paper 1) even though 58 percent of the families it works with in Detroit have substance abuse problems. In the Newark program, 75 percent of families stayed together one year after the intervention. The fact that 25 percent did not indicates the care with which such families are approached and the willingness of family preservation workers to recommend removal of children when necessary.

An exhaustive 1999 report on child welfare and drug abuse found that, again contrary to the stereotype, "national treatment outcome studies clearly show that treatment can be effective."[5] [Emphasis added]. A federal report concluded that one-third of addicts recover on their first attempt and another third recover "after brief periods" of relapse.[6] And family preservation can increase the chances that treatment will work. And another federal study found that the chances of success increase dramatically when parents are allowed to keep their young children with them during inpatient treatment.[7]

But what about “meth”?

When use of crack cocaine was at its worst, so was the hype about what it did to children, and their parents.

The claim that children born with cocaine in their systems were doomed to become, in the words of one hyperventilating columnist, “a biological underclass” [8] was false. The claim that crack cocaine destroyed all maternal instincts was false. And the claim that addition to crack cocaine could not be treated was false.

And yet, in 2005, the same false claims are being made about methamphetamine. In fact, methamphetamine addiction can be treated with just as much success and in the same time frame as addiction to crack cocaine and other substances.[9]

In part, there is a political motivation for the false claime about meth. The federal government wants to allow states to use billions of dollars now reserved for foster care for various prevention programs, including drug treatment. But the child savers want to hoard the money for foster care.

The child savers want us to believe that methamphetamine is virtually untreatable because they want us to believe the only option for their children is foster care. They want us to believe the only option is foster care in order to justify their demand that those billions of dollars be reserved for foster care, and nothing else.

Family preservation is not drug treatment. But Intensive Family Preservation Programs work with parents to determine which of the many forms of drug treatment is most likely to work, advocate to get them into treatment, and support them as they enter that treatment. They also prepare the family for the possibility of relapse, so even if that happens, the children remain safe. And perhaps most important, family preservation programs provide concrete services, so parents with substance abuse problems can marshal their energies and focus on freeing themselves from their addiction.

By providing such concrete help, Family Preservation programs provide something even more important: Hope. "A lot of our families are hopeless," Gomez says. "When you've been using for a long time, you think you'll never be able to get yourself together again." Often it is hopelessness that caused the addiction in the first place. "People get high for a lot of reasons," Gomez says. Sometimes, it may be a personal trauma. Often, it is the despair brought on by a life surrounded by seemingly intractable poverty.

Family preservation can't do it alone -- and the people who run such programs have never claimed that they can. There is an urgent need for a wide variety of substance abuse programs, particularly programs geared to the needs of mothers and children.

"They are doing [drugs] to anesthetize themselves," Gomez says. "They have a pain to deal with. We're always offering other options."

Updated, August 12, 2005


1. Brief for Defendant Appellant and Brief for Petitioner-Respondent, Nassau County (N.Y.) Department of Social Services v. Theresa Back to Text.

2. Personal Communication with Marcello Gomez, Clinical Supervisor for Family Preservation Programs at The Bridge, Inc., Irvington, N.J. Back to Text.

3. James Willwerth, "Should We Take Away Their Kids? Often The Best Way to Save the Child is to Save the Mother as Well," Time, May 13, 1991, p.62. Back to Text.

4. Kathleen Wobie, Marylou Behnke et. al., To Have and To Hold: A Descriptive Study of Custody Status Following Prenatal Exposure to Cocaine, paper presented at joint annual meeting of the American Pediatric Society and the Society for Pediatric Research, May 3, 1998. Back to Text.

5. National Center On Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, No Safe Haven: Children of Substance-Abusing Parents (New York: January, 1999). Back to Text.

6. Department of Health and Human Services, Blending Perspectives and Building Common Ground: A Report to Congress on Substance Abuse and Child Protection (Washington, Difficult Child: April, 1999) p.14. Back to Text.

7. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Center for Substance Abuse Treatment, Benefits of Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for Pregnant and Parenting Women (Washington Difficult Child: September, 2001). Back to Text.

8. Mariah Blake: “The Damage Done: Crack Babies Talk Back,” Columbia Journalism Review, September/October 2004.

9. Richard A. Rawson, Ph.D, Challenges in Responding to the Spread of Methamphetamine Use in the US: Recommendations Concerning the Treatment of Individuals with Methamphetamine-Related Disorders (Los Angeles: UCLA Integrated Substance Abuse Programs, David Geffen School of Medicine). See also, Maia Szalavitz, The Media’s Meth Mania, (Aug. 4, 2005) and The Media Go Into ‘Crack Baby’ Mode Over Meth (August 10, 2005) both at http://www.stats.org.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

This article is too close to home for me. in my humble opinion, bio parents of the tweedles need to be tarred & feathered. Castrated/sterilized with-o anesthesia, then thrown to the dogs.

They were given many chances & supports - didn't happen!



New Member
Any statistician will tell you that you can pretty much make numbers say whatever you want them to say.

I will never believe that the kids I (and other like me) cared for would have been better off with their birth parents. I can honestly say that many of my foster children might have ended up dead if not taken away from their parents. I took in "at risk" children. These kids were neglected, physically and sexually abused, and starved at the hands of their birth parents. They ranged in age from a few weeks to 12 years in age. In my home they were fed, hugged, learned dicipline and ethical behavior, went on neat vacations as members of a family unit, They were accepted within the community and valued as indivituals. They were cared for when sick, were plugged into all kinds of professionals to help with their medical and Pyschological needs. They were not abused they had a clean bed to sleep in, a warm heart to embrace them, good nutrition, nice clothes, They were encouraged to participate in social activities and shown another way of life. And they were safe.

I am not saying that there are not bad foster parents. Only that there are many more good ones too. Advocating that a kid is better off with drug addicted and abusive birthparents than in a clean, responsible, well maintained and efficient foster home is very irresponsible and downright dangerous.

Does the machine fuel the machine? Yes to some extent it does. we have known that for years and that is why the permanancy planning laws were drawn up. Does the system fail some kids? yes. Does it fail all kids? Absolutely not!!!! -RM


New Member
<span style='font-size: 14pt'> <span style='font-family: Georgia'> <span style="color: #663366"> as a former foster parent i deeply resent the implication that children placed in care sre developmentally delayed due to some fault of the foster parents. it's simply not true. in my experience foster parents are far more aware of those milestones than are many average parents. we were also far more aware of services such as EIP...early intervenion....Special Education preschools, etc. every foster parent i had the privilege to know worked relentltlessly to give the kids in their care the very best life possible.

the other comment made that disturbed me was:


In the Newark program, 75 percent of families stayed together one year after the intervention. The fact that 25 percent did not indicates the care with which such families are approached and the willingness of family preservation workers to recommend removal of children when necessary.


i don't think the failure rate in ANY WAY reflects the dedication of the caseworkers.....or their committment to the preservation program(s). it just reinforces the popular propaganda that CWs are lazy, not committed & that *the system* only wants to separate families. what about the parents who just couldn't/wouldn't commit to a clean life no matter what services were offered???

i think stats can be made to support the researchers' agenda. it's human nature to write a paper that supports your theories.

bottom line, foster care saves lives & provides many children stability they never would have had otherwise.


</span> </span> </span>

house of cards

New Member
One of my little ones was in an inpatient treatment program, reunited with her children. She left the program with 3 days to go to chase a man, abandoning her children to do it. I don't hold much stock in that report.


Well-Known Member
I really dont hold much stock in that report either and I am not a foster mom or have adopted kids.

I do have some ties to family who have lost their kids repeatedly to drug use. husband has a brother who is heavy into drugs...I think its coke. He has had 3 or 4 kids removed from him with various women. He keeps repeating this pattern of behavior. The women he chooses all have the same problem...drug use, kids removed too. Now wouldnt one think after losing the first couple to Social Services you would take a hint? Not them. I would think they would either stop reproducing or stop assuming the kids would be taken but every time they are shocked the kids are taken.

This hits home for me, too. Very close to home. But for another reason.
I am a former drug user. I used heavily not long after difficult child 1 (Basset Hound) was born. I was using cocaine. My mom (bless her heart) took care of Basset Hound until I got my act together. It took a few years. MANY years later, I married DEX (the friggen toad) and then had Pixie. When Pixie was 1, I left the toad. To kill the pain, I started smoking pot again. Thank God I did not go back to cocaine. Just before Pixie turned 3, the toad threatened to take her away from me. I got my rear back to AA meetings and, by God's grace, have been clean since.
It pains me to see children suffer at the hands of drug abusing parents. It pains me even more when these same parents continue to have children. But my heart breaks for drug addicts who suffer too. It is not easy to quit if you are indeed an addict.
Please know that I am not giving a free pass to addicted parents because it is "hard". Lots of things in life are hard.
Thank God for foster parents like many of you that help these innocent children. And thank God that there are progras out there that help people who have addictions.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Please forgive me...my emotions were a bit high reading this article last night. And I'm living with the aftermath of pouring family reunification efforts into, at best, an ugly situation.

The reality is that children born to drug addicted parents, are born into chaos. These children, many times, suffer chaos in the womb. While I admire those parents who can & do overcome their drug addictions & make safe, sane choices; many times this isn't the case.

The argument then comes down to nature versus nurture. My difficult children, by their very nature came from a chaotic bio home. Would it have been better to allow them to flounder their way through that chaos & keep the cycle of abuse (in all manners) to continue or to give the tweedles some sort of chance at success.

I've said to 1 SW or another that I question bringing kt & wm into our home. husband & I are not chaotic & it seems against the tweedles very nature to blend in here.

It's been a journey.....one I wouldn't repeat. And one I'm glad that I took on. kt & wm are the children of my heart.
You...and people like you...who foster children with difficulties ...well, it takes a real special person to do that.
No apology needed. I could not imagine the resolve you have.

Yes, I overcame my drug problem, but that's what it was, MY drug problem. I feel that people who reach out to help the unfortunate children born into those horrible situations are angels sent to do God's work.


New Member
This article has it's points, however, I think that it certainly is somewhat offbase. As most of the others who replied, it hit close to home for me. Our difficult child moved in with us in January. She had been in the custody of CPS since February of 2005. Their original plan was to "return her home within a year". She was originally going to be returned to her bio mom and they were trying this "intense family preservation" idea, but they were doing it with the child outside the home because Bio mom was in prison. During the course of bio mom being in prison, my husband made his request that our difficult child be moved in with us (my husband's daughter). They asked us to go through some things first since my husband had never had custody of her before, but they said that if they could return her to us, they would. And the did. Thankfully, they did make the right choice, becuase even after bio mother went through the "family preservation" stuff, prison, AND drug rehab, we thought things were just looking good for our difficult child and her bio mom to rebuild their relationship. CPS was allowing her unsupervised visitation with her mom and they only managed 2 unsupervised visits before bio mom was put back in Jail because she was using again.

I guess that I think they should DEFINITELY try to keep these kids with their parents, but in cases where they have had several chances to rehabilitate themselves and DON'T, it is time for the child to GO. Luckily for our difficult child, she did NOT have to spend the rest of her adolescense in "the system" because my husband and I are MORE than FIT to raise her. Even still, I would rather have seen her end up in foster care than stay with her mom.

If it is a one time ordeal and parents are willing an able to help themselves rehabilitate, YES let them keep their kids, but if it happens again, the child is better off someplace else...

I think maybe it is easier for me to say this becuase I see how traumatized our difficult child is because of everything her drugged up mother put her through while she was growing up...but I think that they need to use discretion on leaving a child with their BIO parents just to avoid putting them in foster care.


I don't buy it and would never buy it no matter how they package it. I lived in a home with a drug abusing parent.

This report, these "statistics", flies in the face of decades of studies by mental health professionals on the ramifications that these children suffer...children abused or neglected, and children of drub abusing parents are at the very least neglected.

Having said that, I do have tremendous respect for those who can overcome their addictions and put their children before themselves. I know it's not easy to do. I just tend to be more jaded because of my home life.
Being a former foster parent and the adoptive parent of 2 very affected kidlets, I have several issues with that artice. Jayme's bio mom lost 4 amazing, beautiful, affected little girls after being given SOOOOOO many chances. I am not putting her down, I have to care for her, she brought my Jayme into the world and we have the chance to make her life much happier and healthier.

But, I have personally been on the other end, getting children taken away without a chance to even state our case! It was not a drug related situation, but I now have much more empathy for the bio parents who lose their kiddos.

My friend and I have talked about our county needing a similar program that the article was about. How about foster families taking in the bio mom and the kids! Especially the ones with newborns, helping them learn how to parent as they are trying to get clean. Our county allows 6 months of recovery while the kids are in foster care, then will add 6 more months if the bios are doing well. In that time they maybe get to see their kids 3 hours or so a week. What is that doing to help that child bond with the bio? I would jump at the chance to help bio moms and a newborn learn to live happy, healthy lives.

I understand, there are times when this type of program would be out of the question, if there is violence involved or what have you. Jayme's older sis' all were sexually and physically abused, starved and left in care of questionable people. I agree with Linda on one thing, bio needs to be tarred and feathered and sterilized and worse!! And, get this, she since has had another child, a baby boy and her drug using Mom has custody of him.

I guess I am on the fence on this one. There are some families that would do great with that type of program and others that that would be a nightmare! If CPS or some other organization could watch them a little more closely, it might work. 6 months to come clean is way too short a time but way too long a time away from their kids if it is a safe situation.

I could go on and on, this is a subject really close to my heart.



Well-Known Member

We do have a place here that is somewhat like what you are talking about. It is an apartment setting for mothers/parents who have kids who are sub abusers who are in active treatment for sub abuse.

I believe there are counselors on site along with daycare and meetings. The apartments are subsidized. I have no idea who runs this program.

Now I dont think these parents have been found guilty of physically abusing their kids but maybe its just the first kid they had and they want to get off drugs.

If thats the case maybe this would work. One could hope.


Well-Known Member
I thought the article was off base, too... There are SO many exceptions, as everyone pointed out--physical abuse, abandonment, etc.
So many things are great in theory but horrid in reality.

And Bigbadkitty, you know you're the exception or you wouldn't be on this bb with-us. You deserve a lot of credit. :smile: :grin:

There is a program in our state where the mom is taken in, too, in a form of foster care. It's very small and experimental but in theory, a good idea. However, since moms are adults, I worry that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch--IOW, if one mom steals or does drugs in the foster parent's home, it's all over.
It's one thing to have a kid do that. You can take away their toys and their privileges, tell them they're grounded, whatever... but what do you do with-an adult? And is the child always kept together with-the parent? I mean, what happens if the mom does something wrong but the kid is okay? It gets pretty complicated.
There are so many side-topics that could be complete books of their own, I don't know where to begin. You've all said it so well.