Fri, Jun 22, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Drugs, alcohol cause one in four child abuse cases

LIVING IN FEAR While suffering physical abuse is a common problem for children of substance-abusing parents, other problems hound them into adulthood

By Max Hirsch  /  STAFF REPORTER

One in four child abuse cases resulting in the death or serious injury of a minor can be blamed on a substance-abusing parent, the Child Welfare League Foundation said yesterday.

Rising substance abuse rates are behind the emergence of 3,000 "children of substance-abusing parents" nationwide whose domestic lives put them at risk of a dizzying array of developmental and social problems, said the foundation.

Currently, the nation is home to approximately 30,000 drug addicts and 650,000 alcoholics, the foundation said, citing public health statistics.

"Based on those figures," the foundation said in a statement, "our estimate of 3,000 children of substance-abusing parents is extremely conservative."

What's worse, the neglect or abuse of these children is likely to intensify as schools nationwide go on their summer break, foundation director Alicia Wang (王育敏) said.

"These kids are usually okay in the daytime because they're in school," she said. "In the summer, however, they're home all the time, and that puts them at increased risk."

While suffering physical abuse is a common problem for children of substance-abusing parents, a host of other problems typically hound them into adulthood, including increased risk of becoming addicted to drugs, emotional development retardation or other psychological afflictions, and increased risk of committing suicide, the foundation said in the statement.

"Oftentimes, these kids are on their own," foundation social worker Chen Chia-ying (陳嘉茵) said. "From a very early age, they must learn how to take care of themselves because their parents' addictions get in the way of their parenting abilities."

Constant fear is another aspect of these children's lives, Wang said, citing foundation statistics showing nearly 70 percent of children with an alcoholic parent live in fear that the parent will "lose control."

Nearly 54 percent of such children also fear being beaten by an alcoholic parent, according to statistics based on the 239 children of substance-abusing parents to whom the foundation provided social services last year.

More than 15,000 children in "high-risk" families nationwide received social services from charities and government agencies last year, while 1,212 children were reported abused by their substance-abusing parents, according to the Ministry of the Interior's Children's Bureau.

The foundation said that there is a 50 percent mortality rate for children abused by the worst parents. But, the especially high mortality rate was calculated based on only 14 "severe" cases of child abuse caused by a substance-abusing parent, from last year to this month, in which the deaths of eight children occurred, with eight others injured.

"The drug and alcohol addictions of adults severely threaten children's right to life," it said.

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