Meth’s impact on Montana’s foster care system

by | Jul 16, 2018 | Blog, Foster Care

Reprint of story by  KTVH

HELENA – Brenda and Jason Crawford are one of Montana’s many adoptive and foster parents; in 2014 baby Kailer entered their life.   Kailer was born with significant amounts of heroin in his body.

“When Kailer was born, within a few hours he started withdrawing from the drugs within his system.  The hospital asked us if we were comfortable giving Kailer morphine treatments, which was really scary for us that you would give an infant morphine,” said Brenda.

The Crawford’s needed special training to care for their adopted son before he could leave the hospital.  Brenda said Kailer suffered from many symptoms they had to watch for.  The hospital even provided a chart and guide to monitor the severity of the withdrawal symptoms.

It was scored and ranked. Categories included: gastrointestinal disturbances, metabolic respiratory disturbances and central nervous system disturbances.

“Some of those days he had severe tremors, he wouldn’t sleep after feeding and his respiratory rate was increased”, said Brenda.

“It’s hard to know that an adult could do that…to a baby…I mean maybe they don’t realize it at the time that they are doing it, obviously, but the ramifications of what they are doing are right there, this baby is suffering,” said Jason.

Jason said it took seven and a half weeks to get Kailer off his morphine treatments.

“It just takes time, they are in pain, they are hurting and they want you to do something about it,” said Jason.

Sadly, Kailer’s story is not unique…right now Montana’s Child and Family Services Division said drugs, including heroin and meth, are having a major impact on the state’s foster care system.

At least 2/3 of the cases are related to drugs and most are from methamphetamine.  Statewide, over 65 percent of the more than 3,400 children in Montana are in foster care because of drug abuse.

“Our system is blowing up because kids are not getting adopted in a timely fashion because people can’t get sober and we are getting more and more kids because people cannot stay off methamphetamine,” said Brent Lashinksi Child Family Services Division.

According to national statistics, the chance for long-term sobriety is low; it’s between 5 and 10 percent for methamphetamine users.

“We struggle with getting permanents for these children because when someone is using meth the long-term recovery is very low.  Once the kids are in custody, we are required to put a treatment plan in place and if the treatment plan says we want chemical dependency counseling then the state is mandated to pay for its services,” added Lashinksi.

CFSD has resources to help to with chemical dependency and mental health.  Sometimes the cycle of addiction makes it impossible to return these kids to their biological parents… and there is a shortage of available foster and adoptive parents.

The system needs more people like the Crawford’s to help children in need. Thanks to their dedication, there is hope for some of the children.

“You could look at him and can’t tell he is even different than any other 2-year-old. (It) is pretty incredible, reallym two years later Kailer is right on track with other children his age,” added Jason.

“When Kailer got off the morphine he was like a whole new person because he didn’t have the influence, he’s brought great joy to our lives, he is everything more than I expected.  He’s a huge part of our family. I couldn’t imagine our life without him,” said Brenda.

Click here to return to the Meth in Montana home page, where you can find the history of methamphetamine in Montana, what life is like for recovering addicts in and out of prison and more.

Foster Care US Government Statistics are available here.

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