Children of Drug-Addicted Mothers

by Yanina Manolova

Among the children of drug-addicted mothers I have seen, self-esteem is so low, and they have such a lack of stability in their life, are emotionally distressed, and are very much lost..” - Catherine Chelak, Program Director, Rural Women’s Recovery Program (RWRP), Athens, Ohio

This essay presents the consequences of drug addictions and provides coverage for the past 6 years (2008 through 2013) of Appalachian drug-addicted mothers and their children. According to the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP), about 2.7 million women in the United States abuse alcohol or drugs. Those who are most affected by addiction are the children. Most of these women have two or three children, of whom many have lost custody. According to Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the estimated number of drug-exposed infants born each year in the United States ranges from 100,000 to 320,000. What is the future of these children? Are they destined to become the next victims, batterers or addicts? Is it possible to break the cycle that often passes silently from one generation to another?

"Why mommy keeps leaving me? She promised she would never leave me again." Destiny, 4
"I passed out in front of my daughter. When I lost custody of her and had to sit in a house with all her things and her not there, I shut down completely. It’s the worst thing I’ve ever felt in my life. All that guilt kept me using.” Natalie, 30
"Daddy hit my mom, pulled her and kicked her out of the house. I can take him down. I am not putting up with that. I felt mad when my mom started taking pills. She would never answer. She would lie. All of that crazy stuff." Clay, 7
"My mom was addicted to heroin. She sold me to another family at birth. I have 4 kids. I smoked crack for 17 years. I am the same as my mom." Nancy, 34
"I’m a mess and it’s hard to stop smoking it.. Cause you know once you go to sleep and you wake up, reality just slaps you in the face- what you’ve done, who you’ve hurt, what you did. What I did to my daughter.. I’ve hurt her..” Patricia, 30
Seth, 3-day-old, experiences drug withdrawal. His mother was using marijuana and heroin during her pregnancy with him.
Cameron, 2, is in custody of Children Services in Athens, Ohio. Either 3 or 4 of every 5 of the children in Children Services cases in the area are related to drug-addicted mothers.
“’I love you mommy. I wish you could get out of jail.’ I miss her. I pray for her every night.” Keara, 6
“You are putting drugs, you are putting alcohol, you are putting everything above him..that’s not right.. He needs you..just like I needed my mom.. You can break the cycle and be there for him. It’s not going to be long before you lose him to the state. And if you lose him to the state..he is’ll never have a chance.” Jessica, 27, left
"My mom used to drink a lot when I was little. I was using heroin for the first 6 months of my pregnancy. Once I got in the rehab, my belly started growing." Brittany, 20
“I had a dream one felt actually like out of body experience, when my body was floating.. And I wanted so bad just to see my kids and spend time with them. And I remember going to my kids..I was playing with them and they were laughing and giggling.. I really believe that if you want something so bad that it comes to you..” Terrance’s mother.