Brazos County has what we call a “Child Protection Court.” It handles all the child abuse/neglect cases filed here.
For almost a decade I’ve been the judge of that court. It’s the most rewarding work I’ve done as a judge. I feel privileged to play a role in restoring children to their families (when the homes have been made safer) and, when necessary, finding safety for them elsewhere.
Today I’d like to speak publicly about a serious problem I’ve discovered in this work: parents using methamphetamines — meth. Half of all child abuse/neglect cases filed in Brazos County this year involved meth use by parents. In these cases, we can help prevent further damage to the children. But it’s very troubling to realize that we probably only see the tip of the iceberg. There must be many hundreds of children being contaminated by meth who we never get to help.
It’s striking that our meth-using parents seem truly ashamed and shocked to learn that their children have tested positive for meth at dangerous levels. This can happen without the children ingesting the drug. Most of these parents have never heard how easily meth is absorbed into a child’s body (including the brain). It can enter a child’s body through the air or by skin/hair contamination from touching surfaces in houses and cars and even parents’ clothing. And these parents aren’t aware of the long-term damage meth can do to a child’s rapidly developing brain.
If you’re a meth-using parent — or a family member or friend of one — I hope this gets your attention.
To talk about this issue, about 80 people met in the Brazos County Courthouse on Nov. 28. The group included state child welfare workers and supervisors, local law enforcement and emergency response officials, Texas A&M Health Sciences experts, school officials, and volunteer court-appointed child advocates — CASA volunteers — from Brazos and other counties.
We agreed it was important to repeat the message often: Meth use and parenting don’t mix. If you’re a meth-using parent, or know about one, you have to do something.
To the parents who need and want substance abuse treatment, it’s available at our local non-profit substance abuse treatment facility, the Brazos Valley Council on Alcohol and Substance Abuse. Call 979-846-3560 or go to www.bvcasa.org to learn more.
To those who think they know about children who may live where adults are using meth, be aware that it’s everyone’s duty to report child abuse or neglect. That’s the law.
You should call the state hotline (1-800-252-5400, available 24/7) to discuss what you know.
Think of it as an act of love for both children and their parents. Making the report does not mean the children will have to go into foster care. The reporting party’s identity is kept confidential.
To learn more, go to this informative site: www.dfps.state.tx.us/Contact_Us/report_abuse.asp.
John Delaney is a senior district judge who now presides over the Brazos County Child Protection Court.