Children's Voice Jan/Feb 2007

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Seven Solutions for Fighting Meth, Healing Families

Extra Support for Grandfamilies

Janet Parker was looking forward to retiring with her husband when she started noticing things weren't quite right with her niece. She looked tired and would disappear for long periods of time. When her niece became pregnant, the family became even more concerned. When the baby, Brian, was born, his mother disappeared for two weeks and eventually ended up in jail for possession of meth.

Janet and her husband decided they had no choice but to take the baby in. "I had this little guy just laying in my lap, and it turned my world upside down," she explains. "I was footloose and fancy-free, and then all of a sudden I had this new baby."

After her niece disappeared, Janet and her husband talked about getting child protective services involved so Brian's mother wouldn't come and take the baby. But they were afraid. "I think I feel what a lot of relatives do," Janet says. "My primary concern was that if I got the child welfare system involved, they might take him away from us, and we didn't want to risk it."

Instead, they decided to go to court and get full custody of Brian, but not before they got help from the Kinship Adoption Resource and Education (KARE) Family Center, a private support organization for grandfamilies in Tucson, Arizona, where Janet had worked as a volunteer. Through the KARE Center, Janet was able to access a range of services, from support groups and one-on-one counseling to a guardianship clinic that helped her navigate the court process.

"This was an emotional experience for me," she remembers. "Knowing there were others who had been through what I had been through really helped." In response to Janet's and other caregivers' experiences, the KARE Center is now offering a series of lectures on "Meth in Tucson" which introduces families to local law enforcement officials, clinicians, and other service providers with expertise in combating meth. "When I volunteer to answer questions from other relative caregivers, I'd say at least 60% of the calls I get are meth-related," Janet says. "It's a huge problem."


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