Substance abuse plays a tragic and significant role in removing children from their homes. Children with parents, who abuse drugs and alcohol, are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-substance abusing families, according to childhelp.org. CASA volunteer, Janet Bishop had direct insight into the lives of four children coping with their mother’s number one priority: drugs.
“The children suffered developmental problems due to the mother’s drug abuse,” Janet explained. From severe anxiety to speech delay from fetal alcohol syndrome, the children endured physical and emotional setbacks. Janet has spent four years advocating for her CASA children’s right to the best health care, education, and home.
When CASA volunteers work with biological parents with substance abuse problems, it is important not to distance yourself with a negative, judgmental attitude, Janet said. However remember to be alert for signs of relapse. “Look for erratic behavior; sometimes the mother would be nice, and the next time, she would unrealistically blame others for her children’s behavior,” Janet said. During a relapse, the biological parents were transient and difficult to contact. Substance abuse also increases the likelihood of domestic violence, and in this case, there were a few instances of the father hurting the mother. Frustrated, Janet continually reminded them, “You have kids involved.”
The children were placed with a loving and nurturing foster family, but because the children adored their foster parents, they were conflicted when their biological parents reached out to them. In a stable foster home, “they knew what was going to happen next,” Janet explained. Days before their biological parents would visit, the anxiety-ridden, oldest boy would even wet the bed. “There were so many broken promises from the biological parents; they promised by Christmas they would be back home with a new Nintendo,” Janet said.
Because the case has lasted four years, many case workers have been assigned to children, but they were not always familiar with the case. As a CASA volunteer, Janet is one of the few consistent and dedicated adults in their lives. Janet ensured early intervention for the children’s developmental delays and counseling. Substance abuse is too often a heartbreaking cycle. As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children, according to childhelp.org. There is a “possibility of them following in their (parents) footsteps, or hopefully, they do the opposite because they want better for themselves,” Janet said.