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Grassley-sponsored bill aims to help foster kids

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | JULY 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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A bill proposed by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, could provide more funding to children placed in foster care because of substance abuse in the family.

According to the National Meth Center, Iowa’s meth problem decreased during the early part of the 21st century. Recently, however, there has been an increase in the number of meth labs that have been raided and amount of meth that has been confiscated. And those statistics are mirrored in Iowa City.

“Whenever we respond to domestic-abuse calls, very often there’s substance abuse involved in that family,” Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton said, and the department has seen an increase in the number of meth labs discovered in the area. “Substance abuse is involved in a majority of crimes we deal with.”

The bill, proposed last month and now sitting in committee, would reauthorize a grant program Grassley drafted in 2006 in a climate of growing drug abuse. Those grants help to serve long-term substance-abuse treatment, early intervention, child and family counseling, and similar services.

As cochairman of the U.S. Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, Grassley has actively worked to reduce illegal drug use in the United States, said Jill Gerber, Grassley’s spokeswoman.

“One area that he’s targeting has been trying to prevent drugs from even entering the country,” Gerber said. “He’s also been engaged with community groups and coalitions that are trying to combat drug use on a local level.”

Experts say children who grow up around substance abuse may suffer psychologically, socially, and academically.

“It can be distressing to children,” said Cindy Nichols Anderson, a clinical child and adolescent psychologist at the Hopes Springs Behavioral Consultants, 325 E. Washington St. “Children can experience anxiety, distress, and social withdrawal.” 

 Grassley’s bill, the Partners for Stable Families and Foster Youth Affected by Methamphetamine or Other Substance Abuse Act, will try to reduce the time that a child has to be in foster care, while also ensuring the child’s parents or primary caregivers are given the needed treatment that would enable them to become reunited with their families.

While foster care is a viable option, Anderson said, it is not an ideal environment for young children, because it can be stressful and unstable. She said she would support such a bill.

“Our children are an investment,” she said. “Research that helps kids early on in life, in terms of education, community support, resources, or family support help people throughout their entire lives, so it truly is an investment that will pay off long-term.” 


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