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My Opinion

      
                                                                                                                                   

Having been a foster parent for nearly three decades, The single, largest problem I've encountered is drug use by teens and even pre-teens. (The second is sex, STDs and unwanted pregnancies - I'll deal with that on another page - "Condoms and Abstinence").

Heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamines (speed), hallucinogens and alcohol are always just around the corner for our kids - not just foster kids but all our kids!

If you're a parent you know there is no quick fix to the problem. I believe children living with their natural parents are in a somewhat better position since the parents may have been addressing drug problems from pre-adolescence with their children - at least hopefully. Even so, there are no promises. Peer pressure often wins over common sense and good upbringing.

Foster children are more at risk. Some kids are from families with drug histories. Depending upon their age, they may have tried drugs prior to foster care placements. If they haven't, we, as foster parents, have no way of knowing what ground work was laid by the natural parents to present the dangers and destructiveness of drugs.

Heroin and crack are so addictive that one or two "hits" is all it takes for a child (or adult) to become addicted. As the addiction becomes greater, the child abandons all self respect and respect for others and will do suprising things to support their habit - the most common of which is stealing items from home and selling them to obtain drugs.

When I first became a foster parent, the drug problem was not intense. It is now. I still struggle when I discover my kids are involved in drugs. Its always overwhelming, even with good support from case workers, agencies and professionals.

The problem usually shows up with a radical change in personality , loss of interest in school and homework, staying out late or all night without a phone call, friends who like to talk with your child in private rather than in the house openly, guarded, cryptic phone conversations with short responses to whoever is on the other end, and so on. That's not to mention the glassy or red eyes and sudden changes in attitudes.

Get Help!

I've always found it imperative to let the case worker know as soon as drug use is discovered. It may mean a child will be removed but its better than having one in the hospital with an overdose - or worse.

My policy is to work with my kids as much as is possible, seeing them through rehabs, drug counseling, AA and NA meetings, and attending AA and NA support group meetings (just to maintain sanity sometimes). Its very draining and anyone interested in foster parenting should consider the possibilities of drug use and its implications and impact on their personal and family lives.

So far, I've taken kids back who have been involved in drugs and drug programs and rehabs if the placing agency and the court (and usually a probation officer) are willing to see them come back.

Problems of a chlld returning are a return to old (drug using) friends and and an eventual slacking off on AA or NA meeting attendance which is usually mandated by court but must be a somewhat voluntary effort on the part of the child. In other words, he/she must want to recover.

The child usually becomes even more expert at drug use and the games he plays if he continues to use. For that reason it is extremely importan for the foster parent to also attend meetings and learn the dynamics of drug abuse and the drug abuser.

Most importantly, you cannot change someone else's life for them! It must come from their own desire to be free from drugs. You cannot do it for them! Don't try! There are excellent programs for parents of drug abusers. You must attend them! You must implement the strategies in YOUR life to be effective.

But don't let all this scare you away. If you're able to give your support, it may mean the difference!

I've seen successes but I've also experienced failures with an addicted child and drug use. There's no promise and if you commit yourself to helping, be sure to know you're in it for the long haul. Some kids never recover. There are relapses and its back to square one.

I believe they're all worth as much of an attempt as you can make while maintaining your health, your own immediate family and your sanity!





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