Some children, turned off to drugs, turn in their parents
Frustration at having basic physical and emotional needs neglected has driven a small but growing number of children to turn their parents into the authorities for using drugs. The immediate result in such cases often is the breakup of the family, at least temporarily. The children are placed in foster or other interim care, while the arrested parents face the criminal charges against them.Skip to next paragraph
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Officials are not sure what the long-term effects will be on parents and children because the phenomenon is so new. They agree there will be a growing number of such incidents because of the publicity surrounding each case and because of the intense antidrug campaigns children are exposed to in school and from the media.
``Kids in substance-abusing families are often very angry. This may be a way of getting back, but whether it's good or bad will depend on the final outcome,'' said Margaret Wulbert, head of psychological evaluation services for juvenile programs in San Diego.
``If the net result is that the family restructures itself, then in the end the child's anger is being taken care of.''
In most of the dozen or so California cases widely reported on in the last six months, the children have been returned to the custody of their parents after brief periods in foster care.
Authorities say judges are loath to break up the natural family unit. Some children have expressed great remorse and guilt over their actions and begged to be reunited with their parents. Other children remain in foster care, while their cases move through the juvenile courts and their parents' cases wait for adjudication in the criminal courts.
In San Diego County last year in two separate incidents, two teenage girls turned their parents in to the authorities for using drugs. Later, police said the children were frustrated that money for food and clothing was being squandered on drugs and that younger siblings were being neglected.
In the first case, the 15-year-old girl and her 4-year-old brother have been placed with relatives pending the outcome of the mother's case. The mother, Debbie Anne Russell, has been charged with misdemeanor possession of methamphetamines and child neglect.
Ironically, the children's grandfather, Robert W. Russell Sr., who was awarded temporary custody of the boy, told reporters that the arrest was ``the best thing that could have happened'' to his daughter-in-law because ``she's a pretty good mother when she's straight.'' Mrs. Russell has refused to be interviewed. The few things she has said indicated deep resentment at the notoriety that accompanies these cases.
In the second case, a 16-year-old girl turned in her parents and another adult to sheriff's deputies, complaining that the adults furnished drugs to her and her 14-year-old brother and then used the boy to make pornographic videos.
When the San Diego district attorney's office late last month tried to prosecute the mother on two felony counts of giving marijuana to minors, the children refused to testify against her. The attorney representing the youngsters said the children had decided they wanted to live with the mother again. The district attorney dropped the charges against the mother in the hope of making a better case against the father and the third defendant.
In another widely publicized case in Orange County, a 13-year-old girl who turned her parents in was reunited with her parents after a brief stay in a public shelter for abused children.
The girl, Deanna Young, had gathered up thousands of dollars worth of cocaine and pills and taken it in a garbage bag to the police station after attending a church lecture on the effects of drugs.
Charges against the parents, Bobby Dale and Judith Ann Young, were dropped after they agreed to complete a drug-counseling program. After the family was back together, the girl said she would do it again, but urged other children who are thinking of following her example to ``talk with their parents first.''