July 26, 2005

The Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) and our nearly 900 public and private nonprofit, child-serving member agencies nationwide applauds the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy, and Human Resources for addressing the issue of methamphetamine use and its impact on children and child welfare agencies.

CWLA appreciates the continued attention and focus this Subcommittee has given to the effect of methamphetamine on all Americans, especially our nation’s children. The spread of methamphetamine knows no boundaries. Methamphetamine use is a national issue affecting both rural counties and large metropolitan areas. As the Subcommittee moves forward with additional action on this issue, CWLA welcomes the opportunity to provide information about how this drug adversely impacts children, families, communities, and the child welfare system nationwide.

CWLA urges this Subcommittee to be certain that proposals or legislation considered address the effect on children and the child welfare system. It will also be important to ensure that as Congress makes decisions about ways to reduce federal spending in budget reconciliation this year, that current supports for abused and neglected children are not threatened. Any loss, cut, or restriction placed on funding for the major sources of federal funding for child welfare (Medicaid and Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance) will threaten the ability of child welfare agencies ability to provide protection and the essential services needed for children impacted by meth.

The Impact of Methamphetamine Manufacture and Use on Children and Child Welfare

The topic of this hearing is timely and critical, as the most lasting effects of methamphetamine are on innocent children. As this Subcommittee continues its work, we hope that you strongly consider the following information in any proposals that are developed.

Parental chemical dependency affects the well-being of children. Parental substance abuse is a common factor in the majority of reports of child abuse and neglect, as it directly impacts the ability of many parents to care for their children. In the 1980’s, crack-cocaine caused a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care and today methamphetamine use is causing the same result.

Increasing use of methamphetamine has challenged the abilities of child welfare agencies to protect the children involved. Child welfare agencies are forced to focus more of their time and resources on children impacted by meth and, as a result, essential child abuse and neglect prevention and support funds are diverted to providing foster care.

The use of methamphetamine may potentially pose one of the more significant threats to children within the last two decades. It also threatens the capacity of our nation’s child welfare systems to respond accordingly. As methamphetamine production, importation, and use continue to spread into new regions, we are quickly learning what many western states have been confronting for the past decade. As state and local officials increase their meth lab seizures, they are witnessing the presence of children within these environments who suffer from severe emotional and physical dangers.

Children face many hazards while living in meth labs and are often the victims of child maltreatment. Coming from homes where drug addiction is present, such necessities as food, water, supervision, shelter, and medical care may only be an afterthought. Children are at heightened exposure to chemical contamination, even in small amounts. The highly combustible nature of the ingredients involved makes these labs a waiting explosion and place children at high danger if present. As of 2003, 15% of meth labs were discovered in response to a fire or explosion. 1Child welfare workers report that the needs of children removed from meth labs who have suffered prolonged periods of neglect are great. Outside of the immediate physical health concerns, these children may exhibit greater social, educational, emotional, and behavioral challenges than other children that enter into foster care. The lack of parental attention has not allowed the children to achieve appropriate levels of development and a child may face confusion and doubt in terms of whom they can trust. These children have difficulty associating with peers and lack guidance in their everyday actions.

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) reports that nearly 9000 meth lab raids were conducted in 2004, and 61,782 between 2000 and 2004. 2 Over 15,000 children have been affected through these meth lab raids alone, 3 and this does not account for the others that enter foster care through reports of abuse or neglect, or, regrettably, are never reported to state officials. These figures are also considered as underreported, as many states are only beginning to collect data representing the presence of children in a lab site. While it is important to document the number of meth labs seized, this only accounts for a small level of methamphetamine that is available in communities since over 80% of the nation’s supply is still being imported from outside United States borders to every section of the country.

State Experiences with Children and the Foster Care System

This Subcommittee is all too aware of the methamphetamine crisis and its effects on communities. However, CWLA believes that it is important to share information with the Subcommittee that focuses on children and the foster care system.

Over the past six years northern California has witnessed a 25% increase in foster care caseloads, with an ever-increasing number coming as a direct result of methamphetamine use. 4 Additionally, the number of children removed from drug labs increased from 45 in 1999 to 223 in 2003.The DEA reports that federal meth lab seizures in California have increased from 108 in 1995 to nearly 1,900 in 2001. From 2000-2004, California was second, only behind Montana, in the number of labs seized (over 7,500). Also telling, is the drastic increase in the methamphetamine treatment rates; they increased from 7.8% (12,222) of the entire treatment population in 1992 to over 30% (61,869) in 2003. 5

Butte County has seen a 43% increase for methamphetamine treatment admissions since 2001. 6 Since 1999, Butte County has served as one of the leaders in services for drug endangered children; all children found during a lab raid are removed from the home and the case is immediately reviewed by a juvenile court to ensure that the child has the safest placement   possible.

Over a five-year period, from 1998-2003, 665 Riverside County children were present during lab seizures. 7 Of these, 31% (207) were under the age of six and 35% (235) were between the ages of seven to twelve. As of 2003, more than 600 children have been rescued from meth labs in Los Angeles County. 8

The efforts by the DEA to battle meth in California continues with over 10,000 clandestine meth lab seized between 1999-2004. 9

Indiana has fully felt the impact of increased methamphetamine use. Previous testimony to this Subcommittee included reports showing that in 2003, 176 children were affected from methamphetamine lab raids, 65 exposed to toxic chemicals, 5 children injured, and one death due to living in homes where methamphetamine was produced. 10

In 2002, Knox County saw 110 children removed from 57 families, with Vigo County removing 48 children because of caregiver neglect or abuse due to methamphetamines. The foster care expenses for Vigo County for these children alone accounted for up to $300,000. 11 From 2000 to 2004, Indiana has witnessed over 3,000 meth lab raids 12 while treatment admission rates for methamphetamine have increased from 1.6 per every 100,000 individuals in 1992 to 22.8 for every 100,000 individuals in 2002. 13

In testimony presented to the Subcommittee last month, Minnesota officials reported that they seized 301 methamphetamine labs in 2003. 14 The DEA reports a total of 916 labs were seized from 2000-2004 in Minnesota and by 2002, meth treatment admission rates for every 100,000 individuals had jumped to 77.6%-up from 4.6% in 1992. 15

In 2003, 30% of the children placed in out-of-home care in Washington County were removed from their homes due to meth use in the family; Atkin County spent $300,000 on out-of-home care for children endangered by meth; and meth accounted for 40-50% of the out-of-home placements in Dakota County. 16

North Carolina
In 2004, a National Public Radio feature documented a growing trend of “meth-orphans” in North Carolina. From January 2003 – July 2004, 20 children in Boone, ages 3 months to 15 years, were placed in foster care or with other relatives due to parental meth use. 17

The growth of meth in North Carolina is well documented. The DEA reports a sizable growth in the number of meth labs raided. In 2000, there were only 14 meth labs seized, in 2004 this number increased to 243.

Utah’s methamphetamine use, production, and arrests have increased dramatically over the last 10 years. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) reports that methamphetamine treatment rates for every 100,000 individuals increased from 10 in 1992 to 115.2 in 2002. 18 Since 2000, there have been over 800 methamphetamine lab seizures 19 and over 3,400 individuals entered methamphetamine treatment in 2003. 20

Forty percent of children thought to have high exposure to chemicals from a meth lab tested positive in 2000, the initial year of using these medical protocols. By 2002, this had increased to 54%. 21

SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set 22

These brief examples from a few states demonstrate that methamphetamine use is spreading and that more and more children are being affected. According to a recently released SAMHSA Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS):

  • Treatment admission rates for meth increased by over 42,000 between 2000 and 2003. During this same time frame, treatment admissions with alcohol as a primary substance decreased by 25,000. On the whole, methamphetamine/amphetamine 23 treatment admissions constituted 7.3%, (135,000) of the total population of treatment admissions-up from 1.3% in 1993.
  • A heightened concern is the age demographics of meth users. 73.7% were between the ages of 20-39. In addition, 9.4% of all meth admissions were for individuals under the age of 19-although this data does not capture family trends with treatment admission rates.
  • With an admission rate of 44.7%, women entering substance abuse treatment with methamphetamine as their drug of choice exceed women who entered treatment focused on alcohol, heroin, cocaine, or marijuana.
  • Not only are youth using meth in greater numbers, outside of alcohol and marijuana, the age at which users start using is decreasing. TEDS data shows that 17.1% of all meth users started between 17-18; 18.1% between 15-16; 11.3% between 13-14; and 6.1 % started when they were twelve or under.
  • 50% of meth users are referred to treatment facilities from the criminal justice system. This is twice the rate of self-referral for individuals who enter treatment and identify meth as their drug of choice.

The Impact Of Methamphetamine On The Child Welfare Workforce

The manufacturing and presence of methamphetamine also poses dangers to the child welfare workforce. Child protection workers are often some of the first to investigate potential meth labs based upon reports of neglect or abuse from the school, neighbors or others that are concerned. Child protection workers that do investigations may face extreme physical danger due to the users heightened sense of paranoia that may lead to assault against the worker. Also, unknowing workers are at risk of chemical contamination as they enter the home.

Recently, the Kentucky and Indiana state legislatures passed strict protocols for child protection workers to follow if they suspect a meth lab is present. A responder who suspects a meth lab should immediately leave the area, without informing potential suspects, and inform law enforcement of the situation. 24

Child protection workers also face additional challenges as they are having increased difficulty in finding appropriate foster parents. In some areas, eligible foster parents may not be willing or have the ability to accept children removed from these homes for fear of possible contamination and due to the behavioral problems that require intensive therapy following removal.

The Impact Of Parental Substance Abuse On Children

Although the focus of this hearing is on the issue of growing manufacture and use of methamphetamines, CWLA urges this Subcommittee, and all members of Congress, to address the impact of all substance abuse on the children that are forced to enter the child welfare system as a result of parental substance abuse addictions. Alcohol and other drug problems devastate the lives of hundreds of thousands of American children and their families each year. A major factor in child abuse and neglect, substance abuse is associated with the placement of at least half of the children in the custody of child welfare. 25 Substance abuse is a factor in one- to two-thirds of cases of children with substantiated reports of abuse and neglect and in two-thirds of cases of children in foster care. 26 Furthermore, children whose parents use drugs or alcohol are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to suffer from neglect. 27While addressing this issue, it is important to not lose sight of the fact that substance abuse is a treatable public health problem with cost-effective solutions. We need to craft policies that, while dealing with the law enforcement policies, also recognize this. Good assessment, early intervention, and comprehensive treatment are key to determining when and if a child can safely stay at home or be reunited with his or her family. 28 Information provided by SAMHSA indicates that women who participate in comprehensive substance abuse treatment longer than three months are more likely to remain alcohol and drug free (68%) than are those who leave treatment within the first three months (48%). 29 SAMSHA data also indicates that 75% of those women receiving comprehensive substance abuse treatment have physical custody of one or more children six months after treatment discharge.

CWLA’s Recommendations

CWLA strongly recommends that federal legislation focused on the growing methamphetamine dangers in this country must include and address the impact on children of parental meth use. While stopping the spread and continued use of methamphetamines, such legislation must also strengthen the capacity of child welfare agencies who respond in order to protect children from abuse and neglect where meth is involved; feature increased services for children removed from these homes; and increase prevention efforts for abuse and neglect. Congress can address these issues in several ways.

  • Congress must reject any proposals to reduce the federal supports currently in place for abused and neglected children.These primary federal supports (Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance and Medicaid) are now being considered for cuts as part of the FY 2006 budget reconciliation goal of reducing federal entitlement spending.

    With foster care caseloads rising in many parts of the country, and with cases due to increased parental meth use, CWLA urges Congress to reject budget proposals that would cap or block grant Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance. A fixed allocation or block grant of these foster care maintenance, administrative, and training funds would mean that the federal government would not longer share the responsibility of providing federal foster care assistance to every eligible child.

    Capping federal foster care funding would shift the financial burden to the states since states would continue to be obligated to care for children who are reported as abused or neglected. Foster care caseloads would not automatically be reduced if the federal government caps its contribution. If federal foster care funding is capped, states may face an additional financial burden in continuing to care for these children. A block grant also fails to provide states with the resources they need when crisis strikes, such as escalating methamphetamine use.

    CWLA urges Congress to reject budget proposals that restrict the use of Medicaid targeted case management and rehabilitative services for children in the child welfare system and lower the federal matching rate for Medicaid services.

    While Medicaid is often times seen as an insurance program for the poor and for long-term care and nursing home services, it also provides vital services for abused and neglected children in foster care. Medicaid targeted case management (TCM) and rehabilitative services help address the special needs, especially the mental health needs, of children who have been abused and neglected. Studies indicate that up to 80% of children in the child welfare system have mental health issues requiring intervention.

  • Congress should approve new resources to provide the substance abuse treatment necessary for parents involved in the child welfare system. The Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act would provide new resources for a range of state activities to improve substance abuse treatment for families in the child welfare system. State child welfare and substance abuse agencies, working together, would have the flexibility to decide how best to use these new funds to enhance treatment and services. For example, states could develop or expand comprehensive family-serving substance abuse intervention and treatment services that include early intervention services for children that address their mental, emotional, and developmental needs, as well as comprehensive home-based, out-patient, and residential treatment for parents with an alcohol and drug abuse problem.

    This legislation, awaiting reintroduction in 2005, recognizes that the majority of parents involved in the child welfare system need substance abuse treatment, but only a small number are getting the treatment they need. All states report long waiting lists for substance abuse treatment, especially for this population. This lack of resources for parental substance abuse treatment in turn causes delays in making final decisions about the well-being and safety of children in foster care whose parents are awaiting treatment.

  • CWLA urges Congress to adopt legislation to extend federal Title IV-E Foster Care to ensure that abused and neglected children can live with relatives in guardianship arrangements. Evidence points to the challenges in rural areas, a segment largely affected from the methamphetamine epidemic, that have been created by the lack or inadequate supply of foster parents in the area. This, in turn, may force child welfare agencies to place children in foster homes at great distance from their communities, schools, and friends. Kinship guardianship placements can offer an important resource to help address this challenge. The Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S. 985) has been introduced with bipartisan support in the House and Senate to support children living in kinship guardian arrangements.
  • CWLA urges Congress to maintain and strengthen Title IV-E training.As the challenge of parental substance abuse increases in some parts of the country, child welfare workers (both public and private agency workers) need to be well prepared. Currently, federal funds cannot be used to provide training for private agency workers or court personnel who are involved in making decisions and providing services for abused and neglected children.
  • CWLA also urges Congress to require any legislation that attempts to address the problem of meth ensures that that Native American tribes are full partners in such solutions. All too often, tribal communities are left out of legislative solutions and funding. CWLA fully supports extending federal Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance to tribes.
  • Congress should provide new resources to support the needed training and technical assistance to help communities face the challenge of meth use. Child welfare agencies play a critical role in facilitating the improvement of communities and families. These challenges are significant and often require communities and families to develop new knowledge and skills consistent with evidence-based practices. There is a need for technical assistance targeting communities and social systems to improve the odds that families can change and support the healthy development of their children. Technical assistance should also target administrative planning, efficiency, and effectiveness and assist social systems as they address the challenges presented by substance abuse and manufacture.


CWLA agrees with the recent comments of U.S. Attorney General Gonzalez that, “in terms of damage to children and to our society, meth is now the most dangerous drug in America.” 30 The dangers of methamphetamine to children, the child welfare community, and the community at large are such a nature that it will take a complete and comprehensive approach to adequately meet these demands. Effective treatment protocols must be established to secure the safety of everyone involved in this battle. Effective practice modalities must be established for child welfare workers that protect their safety. Enhanced meth treatment programs need to be established, allowing individuals to receive the help needed. Greater research is needed to determine the long term effects of this scourge. Intense education efforts must begin for our children, youth, and communities that detail the dangers associated with meth and seek to curb future use. These efforts must also be targeted at those areas that are not currently experiencing a problem. Above all else, services and protection for the children removed from meth homes must be secured and strengthened.CWLA looks forward to working closely with this Subcommittee to further promote the safety and security of the nation’s children.


  1. Swetlow, K. (2003, June). Children at Clandestine Methamphetamine Labs: Helping Meth’s Youngest Victims. OVC Bulletin. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime.
  2. Information available online through DEA state fact sheets.
  3. Weidenbener, L.S. (2005, July 21). States adopt rules to get children out of meth labs: Caseworkers also to be protected. The Courier-Journal. Retrieved online July 23, 2005.
  4. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (2005). Keeping the Promise of a Safe Home for Northern California’s Children: The Impact on Child Abuse and Future Crime of Capping Federal Foster Care Funds.Retrieved online June 6, 2005.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Treatment Episode Data Set: Substance Abuse Treatment by Primary Substance of Abuse. Retrieved online June 6, 2005.
  6. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids (2005). Keeping the Promise of a Safe Home for Northern California’s Children: The Impact on Child Abuse and Future Crime of Capping Federal Foster Care Funds.Retrieved online June 6, 2005.
  7. Drug Endangered Children of Riverside Co., CA. Available online.
  8. Drug Endangered Children Response Team, District Attorney with Department of Children and Family Services and LA IMPACT Office. (2003).
  9. This includes labs, dumpsites, chem/glass/equipment. United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Maps of Meth Lab Seizures. Retrieved online June 6, 2005.
  10. Burns, S. (2004, July 18). Congressional Testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources: “Fighting Methamphetamine in the Heartland: How can the Federal Government Assist State and Local Efforts?”
  11. Carraway, M. (2004, July 18). Congressional Testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources: “Fighting Methamphetamine in the Heartland: How can the Federal Government Assist State and Local Efforts?”
  12. Information available online through DEA state fact sheets.
  13. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004, Sept. 17). The DASIS Report.Primary Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Treatment Admissions: 1992-2002Retrieved online.
  14. Campaion, M. (2005, June 27). Congressional Testimony before the House Committee on Government Reform, Subcommittee on Criminal Justice, Drug Policy and Human Resources: “Fighting Methamphetamine in America’s Heartland: Assessing Federal, State and Local Efforts”
  15. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004, Sept. 17). The DASIS Report.Primary Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Treatment Admissions: 1992-2002Retrieved online.
  16. Papin, D. (2004). The tragedy of meth is shocking, challenging for county human services. Minnesota Counties, 48 issue 4. Available online.
  17. Hartman, L. (2004, July 8). Increasing problem in North Carolina of meth-orphans. Radio transcript from National Public Radio available online.
  18. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2004, Sept. 17). The DASIS Report.Primary Methamphetamine/Amphetamine Treatment Admissions: 1992-2002Retrieved online.
  19. Information available online through DEA state fact sheets.
  20. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDA). Highlights – 2003. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services, DASIS Series: S-27, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 05-4043, Rockville, MD. Retrieved online July 21, 2005.
  21. Salt Lake Drug Endangered Children Program. (2003). Salt Lakes Cops Meth Initiative.
  22. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2005). Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDA). Highlights – 2003. National Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services, DASIS Series: S-27, DHHS Publication No. (SMA) 05-4043, Rockville, MD. Retrieved online July 21, 2005.
  23. It is important to note that while meth use is the overwhelming threat in stimulant use, amphetamines are also included. As of 2002, Arkansas, Oregon, Tennessee, and Texas did not report methamphetamine treatment admissions separately.
  24. Smith, M. (2005, July 21). State sets meth-bust standards: Caseworkers can remove children.Retrieved online July 20, 2005.
  25. Child Welfare League of America. (1997). Alcohol and Other Drug Survey of State Child Welfare Agencies. Available online. Washington, DC: Author.
  26. U.S. House of Representatives, Committee on Ways and Means. (2004). Substance Abuse, Section 11. In 2004 Green Book. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  27. Wells, K. & Wright, W. (2004, Sept. 14). Medical Summit. Presented at Idaho’s Second Annual Drug Endangered Children Conference, Post Falls, Idaho. Retrieved online July 21, 2005.
  28. Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy. (March 1998). Major new study finds drug treatment as good as treatments for diabetes, asthma, etc., and better and cheaper than prison. (Press release of a study sponsored by Physician Leadership on National Drug Policy). Retrieved online, January 6, 2005. Providence, RI: Author.
  29. Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. (2001). Benefits of residential substance abuse treatment for pregnant and parenting women: Highlights from a study of 50 Center for Substance Abuse Treatment demonstration programsRetrieved online, January 6, 2005. Rockville, MD: SAMHSA.
  30. Associated Press. (2005, July 18). Gonzalez cites progress in meth fight. Washington Post. Retrieved online July 19, 2005.