Monday, July 11, 2005

Meth Babies

Also from Atrios today: Duncan directs us to a NYTimes piece on kids dumped into foster care because their parents are meth addicts:

TULSA, Okla., July 8 - The Laura Dester Shelter here is licensed for 38 children, but at times in the past months it has housed 90, forcing siblings to double up in cots. It is supposed to be a 24-hour stopping point between troubled homes and foster care, but with foster homes backed up, children are staying weeks and sometimes months, making it more orphanage than shelter, a cacophony of need.

In a rocking chair, a volunteer uses one arm to feed a 5-day-old boy taken from his mother at birth, the other to placate a toddler who is wandering from adult to adult begging, "Bottle?" A 3-year-old who arrived at dawn shrieks as salve is rubbed on her to kill the lice.

This is a problem methamphetamine has made, a scene increasingly familiar across the country as the number of foster children rises rapidly in states hit hard by the drug, the overwhelming number of them, officials say, taken from parents who were using or making methamphetamine.

Oklahoma last year became the first state to ban over-the-counter sales of cold medicines that contain the crucial ingredient needed to make methamphetamine. Even so, the number of foster children in the state is up 16 percent from a year ago. In Kentucky, the numbers are up 12 percent, or 753 children, with only seven new homes.In Oregon, 5,515 children entered the system in 2004, up from 4,946 the year before, and officials there say the caseload would be half what it is now if the methamphetamine problem suddenly went away. In Tennessee, state officials recently began tracking the number of children brought in because of methamphetamine, and it rose to 700 in 2004 from 400 in 2003.

This is one we're dealing with here in NW AR, too, where recently we too banned the sale of cold medicine in the Wal-Mart. (You can still buy it -- you just have to go up to the pharmacist and show your license and sign for it, as though it were Xanax or Lorcet you were buying, and he keeps track of how much you buy a week, too.)

Not to downplay the whole crack baby epidemic of the 1990s, or how much damage crack did, but I'm wondering if it did near the damage this stuff does. And I'm wondering why no one seems to be causing near the fuss about this problem. Cause it's white folk doing it and not black?

They're mostly poor white, of course -- from the same pool my students come from, though they aren't my students, because you don't come to the university if you're cooking meth or doing meth, obviously -- and that could be it. It's conservative pundits who got all righteous about crack babies and crack hos and what "they" were going to do to "our" country, and conservative pundits, in general, aren't that interested in what happens to poor white folk from the midwest. Or their poor white kids.

No matter what they claim.

But man. What's going on with these folks and their kids.

(And the War on Drugs, btw? Yeah, right. It's helping these people a WHOLE bunch.)

(Oh, that's right -- I forgot. We don't want to help them. They're criminals. We just want to lock'em up and make'em suffer. Cause they ain't suffering enough. I get confused, sometimes. That whole do-unto-others thing, and help-the-sick, you know, it muddles me.)

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