Pubdate: Sat, 28 Jul 2001
Source: Charleston Daily Mail (WV)
Copyright: 2001 Charleston Daily Mail
Author: Richard Wexler
Note: Wexler is executive director of the National Coalition for Child
Protection Reform.


I thank the Daily Mail and reporter Vada Mossavat for focusing on the 
importance of drug treatment programs that allow mothers and their children 
to stay together ("Addicted mothers get help from program," July 17).

Too often, the only response to addicted parents has been to sweep their 
children away and into America's chaotic system of foster care. The 
assumption is that the mother must be irredeemable, and the children would 
have to be better off elsewhere. The research says otherwise.

In a University of Florida study of "crack babies," one group was placed in 
foster care, another with birth mothers able to care for them. After six 
months, the babies were tested using all the usual measures of infant 
development: rolling over, sitting up, reaching out.

Consistently, the children placed with their birth mothers did better. For 
the foster children, the separation from their mothers was more toxic than 
the cocaine.

It is extremely difficult to take a swing at bad mothers without the blow 
landing on their children. If we really believe all the rhetoric about the 
needs of the children coming first, we must put those needs before anything 
- -- even our anger at their parents.

Programs like the Prestera Center's Renaissance program, featured in 
Mossavat's story, are among the very best investments any state can make to 
help its most vulnerable children.

Richard Wexler

Alexandria, Va.
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