CASA STUDY NO SAFE HAVEN FINDS DRUG AND ALCOHOL ABUSE CAUSES OR EXACERBATES 7 OUT OF 10 CASES OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT
Number of Abused and Neglected Children Growing 8 Times Faster Than Children's Population -- Fueled by Alcohol, Crack Cocaine, Marijuana, Methamphetamine
Substance Abuse Throws Child Welfare System into Chaos, Collapse and Calamity--Report Calls for Complete Overhaul
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Parental drug and alcohol abuse and addiction has triggered an explosion in child abuse and neglect that has thrown the child welfare system into a state of chaos, collapse and calamity, leaving behind a wreckage of millions of children, according to No Safe Haven: Children of Substance-Abusing Parents.
The 167-page report of a two-year national study was released today by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA)* and former Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare.
The groundbreaking report--the most comprehensive analysis ever undertaken of the impact of substance abuse on child abuse and neglect--reaches this most disturbing conclusion: There is no safe haven for these abused and neglected children of drug- and alcohol-abusing parents. They are the most vulnerable and endangered individuals in America.
In human tragedy, the cost is inestimable. In dollars, parental substance abuse and addiction costs the nation some $20 billion a year: $10 billion in federal (44%), state (44%) and local (12%, mostly county) child welfare system costs--70% of the $14 billion total--and an estimated $10 billion more in lost productivity and health care, law enforcement, criminal justice, family courts, welfare and social service costs.
The study concludes that substance abuse and addiction dangerously compromise or destroy the ability of parents to provide a safe and nurturing home for children and confound the child welfare system's ability to protect these children.
Individual caseloads for judges and caseworkers reach as high as 50; judges have only 10 minutes to decide the fate of a child; caseworkers and judges lack training in substance abuse and addiction; substance abuse treatment is not available for most parents who need it; more younger children are being abused and neglected, and an increasing number of abused and neglected children are receiving fewer services.
Key findings reveal:
Over the past 10 years, fueled by alcohol and illegal drugs, the number of abused and neglected children has more than doubled-- from 1.4 million in 1986 to more than 3 million in 1997, a rise more than eight times greater than the increase in the children's population (114.2 percent compared to 13.9 percent).
Substance abuse causes or exacerbates 7 out of 10 cases of child abuse or neglect.
Children whose parents abuse drugs and alcohol are almost 3 times likelier to be abused and more than 4 times likelier to be neglected than children of parents who are not substance abusers.
In 1985, there were 798 reported child deaths from abuse and neglect; in 1996, 1,185 were reported but the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect set the actual number in 1995 at 2,000--more than five deaths a day.
Four out of five (78%) of the children killed were under age five and 38% under age one.
Children exposed prenatally to illicit drugs are 2 to 3 times likelier to be abused or neglected.
"In the past, this shocking and devastating problem has only achieved national attention when a child is brutally killed," said Califano, "Now there is a report that exposes how alcohol, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin and marijuana are fueling this population explosion of battered and neglected children."
A SYSTEM IN CHAOS:
The CASA report reveals an overwhelmed child welfare system:
Even though child welfare agencies have allocated more time to investigating neglect and abuse, at the expense of providing needed services to help prevent further maltreatment, in 1997, they were able to investigate only one-third of all cases.
Even though the need for in-home services has risen, the number of families receiving them dropped 58%, from 1.2 million in 1977 to 500,000 in 1994.
Most parents who need treatment don't receive it and much of the treatment is not appropriate for these predominately female parents.
Nationwide, the number of children in foster care has nearly doubled rising from 280,000 in 1986 to 502,000 in 1996. The number of children in and out of foster care over the course of a year is at least 700,000.
Only 1 in 4 children available for adoption are adopted.
CASA conducted an unprecedented survey of child welfare professionals across the country about substance abuse and addiction. The survey of 915 child welfare professionals reveals:
80% say that substance abuse causes or exacerbates most cases of child maltreatment. Forty percent say it is involved in 75% to 100% of cases.
Almost 90% cite alcohol alone or in conjunction with illegal or prescription drugs as the main substance of abuse. Of illegal drugs, 48.5% cite crack cocaine as the most commonly abused, 20.5% cite marijuana and 14.2% cite methamphetamine.
More than 70% cite substance abuse as one of the top three reasons for the dramatic rise in child maltreatment cases since 1985.
THE CLOCK OF CHILD DEVELOPMENT VS. THE CLOCK OF RECOVERY:
The report finds an irreconcilable clash between the rapidly clicking clock of physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual development for the abused and neglected child and the slow motion clock of recovery for the parent addicted to alcohol or drugs.
The consequences fall on the children: many children who survive abuse or neglect are angry, antisocial, physically aggressive and even violent. Frequently they perform poorly in school and engage in delinquent or criminal behavior. For some, the consequences include low self-esteem, depression, hopelessness, suicide attempts and self-mutilation. They are at high risk for developing their own substance abuse problems and are likely to repeat the cycle of abuse and neglect that plagued their own childhood.
"Bluntly put, the time that parents need to conquer their substance abuse and addiction can pose a serious threat to their children who may suffer permanent damage during this phase of rapid development. Little children cannot wait; they need safe and stable homes and nurturing adults now in order to set the stage for a healthy and productive life," said Califano.
"This report underscores the urgent need for substantial increases in funding for treatment and health care for substance-abusing parents and their children," he added. "Where the only hope of reconstituting the natural family for the abused child rests is comprehensive treatment for the parent, it is an inexcusable and cruel Catch-22 not to make such treatment available."
If parents who are abusing their children fail to engage in substance abuse treatment or conquer their addiction -- the report reached this conclusion: the abused or neglected child should be removed from the home for permanent adoption.
CASA's report calls for urgent action to dramatically overhaul child welfare practices to: step up efforts to prevent substance abuse and addiction, increase home care and treatment for abused and neglected children; train child welfare workers to screen and assess parental substance abusing, know what to do when they spot it and refer them to timely and appropriate treatment; provide funding for comprehensive treatment; train all child welfare, court, social and health service professionals in substance abuse, and increase research and improve evaluations.
The report also calls for the system to facilitate adoptions when parents fail to engage in treatment.
"Unfortunately, even if parental rights are timely terminated, there is no assurance of a safe haven for these children--there are far too few adoptive homes and appropriate foster care is in short supply," said Califano. "The best hope of a safe haven for these children is to prevent alcohol and drug abuse by their parents.
CASA conducted case studies to identify innovations in the child welfare agencies and courts:
New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services' pairs certified addiction counselors, and home visitors, who are paraprofessionals in recovery, with caseworkers to identify parental substance abuse and provide treatment.
Connecticut's Project Safe, developed by the State Department of Children and Families, who have contracted with managed care to allow immediate access to assessment, testing and priority treatment.
Sacramento County's Alcohol and Other Drug Training Initiative, a department-wide program to train caseworkers in substance abuse.
Family and Parent Drug Courts, Reno, Nevada, Pensacola, Florida and Suffolk County, New York, which provide for treatment and increased social services in exchange for a parental commitment to stop alcohol and drug use, submit to random drug testing and regular meetings with the judge.
"No Safe Haven" is the result of an unprecedented analysis by CASA of available data on child abuse and neglect, a survey of 915 professionals in the child welfare field, a review of more than 800 professional articles, books and reports, six case studies of innovations in the field and numerous interviews with judges, child welfare officials and workers on the front lines.
It was funded by The Edna McConnell Clark Foundation, Primerica Financial Services, and the Samuel M. Soref and Helene K. Soref Foundation.
The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University is the only national organization that brings together under one roof all the professional disciplines needed to study and combat all types of substance abuse as they affect all aspects of society. CASA's missions are to: inform Americans of the economic and social costs of substance abuse and its impact on their lives; assess what works in prevention, treatment and law enforcement; encourage every individual and institution to take responsibility to combat substance abuse and addiction; provide those on the front lines with tools they need to succeed; and remove the stigma of substance abuse and replace shame and despair with hope.