"In these bleak days": Parent methamphetamine abuse and child welfare in the rural Midwest

Wendy Haight, Teresa Jacobsen, James Black, Linda Kingery, Kathryn Sheridan, Cray Mulder

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


This report describes the impact of parent methamphetamine abuse on the development and well-being of school-aged children, and considers implications for culturally appropriate child welfare services. Thirty-five adult informants from several, adjacent rural Midwestern counties in the United States were interviewed as part of a larger ethnographic study. These child welfare workers, other community professionals (educators, counselors, law enforcement personnel, and substance abuse treatment providers), and foster caregivers described their experiences with families involved with methamphetamine. Overall, informants described that children are brought by their methamphetamine-abusing parents into a rural drug culture characterized by distinct, antisocial beliefs and practices. Children's experience of this culture includes environmental danger, chaos, neglect, abuse, loss, and isolation. Informants believed that children develop antisocial beliefs and practices such as lying, stealing, drug use, and violence through direct teaching by their parents and, indirectly, through observing parents' own antisocial behavior. Informants described children as displaying psychological, social, and educational disturbances. They also described individual variation in functioning across children that they attributed, in part, to individual (e.g., temperament, intelligence), familial (e.g., extended family), and community (e.g., school) characteristics. Informants noted a need for effective child mental health services in the area, and for ensuring a positive environment for children's future development through education of the children, foster parents and other community members.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-971
Number of pages23
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2005

Bibliographical note

Funding 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 also to Wynne Korr and anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments on an earlier draft.


  • Child welfare
  • Methamphetamine abuse
  • Rural Midwest


Dive into the research topics of '"In these bleak days": Parent methamphetamine abuse and child welfare in the rural Midwest'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this