Methamphetamine use a burden to county

Methamphetamine-addicted parents are putting a major burden on the Moffat County Social Services Department, the department's director said Tuesday.

When the department has to remove a child from its parents' care because the parents are unfit, social services has to go through the courts to do it. That means the department has to pay an attorney, social services Director Marie Peer said.

In 2002, the department spent $29,000 on attorney fees to remove children from their homes.

Those removals, Peer said, often occurred in homes where meth was used.

The cost of handling child-removal cases has risen steadily every year since 2001, peaking at $57,000 in 2005, according to the Social Service Department's annual report, which Peer delivered to Moffat County commissioners Tuesday.

"That has been a real problem for us," Peer said.

The increase in out-of-home placements also put a heavy workload on Moffat County Attorney Kathleen Taylor, Peer said, so some cases have to be handled by an outside attorney.

About 75 percent of the children removed from the care of their parents last year were removed because a parent had a serious meth problem, Peer said.

In the county last year, an average of 43 children a month were in out-of-home placements, according to the report.

Meth-addicted parents are focused on getting high, not on being parents, Peer said.

"They are not parenting," Peer said. "They just aren't."

Beverly Counts, Moffat County Social Services supervisor of casework staff, said meth use "creates all sorts of havoc" with families.

People who would otherwise be good parents can't focus on their children because they have ongoing legal problems or can't hold a job, Counts said.

Peer said another surprising number in the report is the amount of money the department gives out in food stamps.

In 2005, the department doled out $906,000 in food stamps, almost twice the $492,000 cost in 2001.

"The meaning of that to the economy is amazing," Peer said.

Peer said that despite the increase in food stamps, she thinks there are people who need assistance but don't ask for it.

"Just because someone accepts public assistance doesn't mean they will be on public assistance for their whole life," she said.

Brandon Johansson can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 213, or bjohansson@craigdailypress.com.

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