Foster Care for Meth Exposed Kids

Methamphetamine use by parents requires special treatment for abused and neglected kids

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Kids that live in homes where their parents use methamphetamines are often abused and neglected. Foster care interventions can help place the child in a better environment.

A recent study reported spikes in foster care admissions due to methamphetamine abuse in the US.

Researchers recommend a tailored plan for handling kids that have been removed from situations due to methamphetamine use in the home.

"Call 911 if you suspect a child’s caretaker is using methamphetamines."

Scott Cunningham, PhD, assistant professor of economics, at the Hankamer School of Business at Baylor University, and Keith Finlay, PhD, assistant professor of economics, at Tulane University, co-authored a study that looked into the foster care admission rates of children belonging to methamphetamine users.

The research team said the reason they chose to investigate this topic is that foster care caseloads have nearly doubled over the last 30 years. From the 1986 to 2010, the US foster care population went from 280,000 to 408,000.

Social workers and police officers have claimed that parental methamphetamine use is a contributing factor in the increased caseload, but research was needed to prove this claim.

Researchers looked at the data from 1995 to 1999 for foster care admissions and treatment facility admissions for methamphetamine abuse. They discovered that for every 1 percent rise in methamphetamine use, there was a 1.5 percent increase in foster care admissions.

Dr. Cunningham said, “Our findings suggest strongly that the social costs of parental meth use include child maltreatment and growth in foster care placements.”

“To address this, child welfare policies should be designed specifically for the children of meth-using parents.”

“Given the large social costs of meth use on child maltreatment, policymakers face a significant challenge to reduce its use. Regions with intensive meth use should consider greater resources for meth treatment and child welfare services.”

When the methamphetamine ingredient, ephedrine, was made no longer available over the counter in 1995, there was a dip in methamphetamine usage for the following six months.

Later restriction of pseudoephedrine in 1997 resulted in another dip in methamphetamine usage. These restrictions caused a 4 percent decline in methamphetamine usage.

Neglect and abuse were generally reported in methamphetamine specific foster care admissions. These types of maltreatments need special plans for intake, treatment and placement to best serve the health and safety of the child.

Dr. Toni Heineman, director of A Home Within, said, “Any program to address the psychological consequences of children who have lived with meth addicted adults must take into account that these children will have been exposed to wildly unpredictable behavior—ranging from frantic, frequently violent, highs to extended periods of uninterruptible sleep.”

“For these children it is especially important that caseworkers and foster parents create a calm and orderly environment. All children benefit from predictable routines, but children who have lived in chaos particularly need external stability to help them regulate their feelings and behavior.”

This study was published in the July issue of Economic Inquiry. No financial information was given and no conflicts of interest were reported.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 11, 2012
Last Updated:
January 11, 2013