2-23-05 – A rise in local meth orphans has created new challenges for protective services and law enforcement in Texas and Oklahoma.
The protocol for removing children from the homes of meth-addicted parents differs by state. In Oklahoma, law enforcement notifies the Department of Human Services if children are involved in a meth bust. The children are taken to the hospital for a check-up, then DHS finds temporary placement either in a foster home or with other relatives.
In Texas, state law does not require officers to notify Child Protective Services. Often, officers will determine where the children will be place until a judge can make a final decision.
Agencies in both states, however, say their goal is to keep families together by encouraging parents to stay clean.
"Our agency is extremely interested in seeing their children return to their parents - that's our very first plan - is family reunification," says Wayne Hale, a Grayson County Child Protective Services Supervisor.
When it comes to meth orphans, judges will decide what set of requirements a parent will have to meet in order to have their children returned to them. Usually, parenting classes and drug rehabilitation are required. DHS or CPS investigators monitor the progress.
On average, only two percent of meth addicts stay clean, leaving the majority of meth orphans in the foster system or with relatives.
A 31-year-old inmate at the Grayson County Jail says she tried to quit using in the past, but it never worked.
“I have tortured and put my oldest son through complete hell. I just found out he is not doing very well in school and the teacher asked him why he wasn’t doing well in school and he said it was because he missed his mother and she was in jail.”
Her three children became casualties of her methamphetamine habit. The woman, who wished to remain anonymous, has been in jail nearly six months. She says she hopes to stay clean and regain custody of at least one of her children.
Agencies in Oklahoma and Texas say good foster home for these meth orphans are in short supply. In some cases, children have been placed in homes several counties away because there were none available, locally. This means the child has to attend a new school, temporarily and it usually means other friends and family can not visit.