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Thousands of Children at Risk

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 Thousands of Children at Risk

A Sad but realistic account on the perils some children are forced to face as a consequence of their parents drug and alcohol addiction as reported in the Times (08 03 09) By Marina Barnard.

The tragic account of Brandon Muir whose short life was a mixture of peril and chaos because of the lifestyle his so called carers.

Moreover Brandon was killed by Robert Cunningham the boyfriend of whom had moved in with Heather Boyd the mother of the child.

The couple were both heroin addicts, it was stated that Cunningham hit the child so hard in the stomach that his intestine ruptured. What was more distressing was that Cunningham then took Brandon to a party, left him in a toilet whilst he drank and took his drugs.

It was determined that The little boy had inexcess of forty injuries to his tiny little body, including four broken ribs. His mother climes that she was indeed a good parent, blaming social workers for not empowering her with the knowledge of Cunningham’s violent past.

Alarmingly, the fact of the matter is that in Scotland alone there are over 50,000 minors living with one or both parents with addiction problems. Notwithstanding Brandon Muir is not the only child to die in such circumstances. Caleb Ness, Derek Doran and Danielle Reid all died because of the drug problems of their parents and their parents’ partners.

More significantly because child deaths are rare, those who have had a lucky escape, elude present statistics.

Many children living with addiction very narrowly escape the perils. An example of a two year old who ate her parents’ heroin; the toddler left alone to play who nearly burnt himself to death while his mother went in search of drugs. None of these incidents resulted in social work intervention, and few of the incidents parents described again and again had ever been known about by any agency. Yet they happen with scary frequency. What is going so terribly wrong?

It is a fact that any problem drug user and they will tell you how drugs become the only thing of any real importance in their lives. The focus from the drug user’s perspective is to obtain and take drugs at any cost. Arguably, One, now drug-free, woman said: “You only care about yourself. If you’ve got anything left, they get it, but you would take it off them to give it to you.”

Commonsense prevails, households where drugs are the main priority are necessarily chaotic, structured not around the child’s need for routines of meals, school or bedtimes but around the funding, buying and using of drugs, usually more than once a day.

“I used to take my kids with me to score and we’d stand in the rain for three hours waiting on somebody coming back with drugs,” said one mother. “It didn’t matter that it was 11 o’clock at night and they were soaking and they were hungry and they were tired.” Children dragged along in the wake of their parent’s habit learn not to expect very much at all: food, shelter and clothing are uncertain, and so is their safety.

On balance, the mantra that “parental drug addiction doesn’t necessarily mean an inability to parent”. However year after year small children are exposed to violent outbursts from their carers to the extent that the Scottish children’s reporter charts the upward trajectory of child protection registrations for neglect under the category of lack of parental care, mostly around the areas of substance misuse.

As indicated by Barnard to help these children, we have to be clear that child welfare is incompatible with parental drug use. Parents have a choice to make between their habit and the retention of their children. Society has an obligation to offer support to such parents, but this should be clearly time limited and backed by legal sanctions.

Ultimately we cannot allow our children to grow in such dire circumstances.

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