This report focuses on the experiences and perspectives of rural, Midwestern children aged 7-14 years who were involved with the public child welfare system because of their parents' methamphetamine abuse. Eighteen children participated in semi-structured, in-depth interviews focusing on their families of origin. Children reported exposure not only to their parents' and non-kin adults' methamphetamine and other substance abuse, but to a constellation of activities related to drug use or drug seeking behavior including violence within their homes and other criminal behavior. Children responded to the contexts in which they were reared in a variety of ways including accepting or actively resisting socialization messages that normalized substance abuse. The majority of children described involvement with law enforcement and child welfare as a "sad" and "scary" time in their families. Far from embracing their placement within safe and stable families, many children continued to express sadness, distress and resistance to legal and child welfare interventions even after months in foster care. Implications for facilitating the adjustment of children to foster care and beyond are discussed including providing foster parents with support and information about the contexts in which children have been reared and children's understanding of those contexts in order that they may interpret and respond to challenges that may emerge.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This study was conducted in collaboration with the Charleston Field Office of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. It was funded by an Arnold O. Beckman Award from the University Research Board, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Thanks to Ga-young Choi, Rebecca Jones, Wynne Korr, Jane Marshall, and Anne Robertson for their thoughtful comments on earlier drafts of this manuscript.