A Dec. 7 article in the Nevada Appeal contained a shocking statement. Residents of Gardner Lane in Carson City said that they knew drug deals were taking place in their neighborhood but that they hadn't reported this because they believed the drugs were not being sold to children, only to adults.
"It's adults dealing to adults, if it would have been children, that would be different."
These residents were repeating a myth - a self-serving fallacy that has already devastated large portions of our nation's urban centers and that has now moved to America's small towns and rural areas.
Part of the myth is that the drugs don't reach children. A 1999 Columbia University study shows that, nationally, 4.7 percent of 12th graders used methamphetamines during the previous year (No Place To Hide).
Part of the myth is that it can't happen here. The same study showed that small town 12th-graders were 60 percent more likely to have used methamphetamines during the previous year than 12th-graders in large urban areas.
Part of the myth is that kids are unaffected by adult addiction - that somehow adults can use methamphetamines and still be good parents. The Appeal article described the physical results of methamphetamine use. These lead to further effects - the role methamphetamines play in domestic violence and child maltreatment. It's hard if not impossible to provide consistency, nurturing, reasonable limits and social involvement for children when parents are alternately strung out and irritable.
It has been estimated that from 50 to 80 percent of parents known to the nation's child welfare system have substance abuse problems. The huge increase in child maltreatment between 1980 and the present day has often been attributed to the drug epidemic. As a result, in the U.S., there are currently over 550,000 children in foster care.
Drug usage is highest in American cities with populations from 50,000 to 250,000. Population just over 50,000 and growing, Carson City sits on what is sometimes called the "methamphetamine highway," running east from San Francisco and Sacramento. During the last counted year, 1998, Carson City had the state's highest rate of substantiated child abuse and neglect (Nevada KidsCount 2000).
Methamphetamines are a great danger to our children. Thanks to the officers involved in this drug bust. It makes a difference. For more information on abuse and neglect of children in Carson City, visit www.casaofcc.org.
CHRIS BAYER, Director
CASA of Carson City