“Tabitha” said she was smoking meth “pretty much all day” when her three young children were taken away.
Nationally, it’s a problem that can’t be ignored.
In a recent survey of 500 police departments, 58 percent said methamphetamine is their most serious drug issue, compared with only 19 percent for cocaine and 17 percent for marijuana.
In places like Parker and Palo Pinto counties, meth is at the heart of hundreds of broken families.
Tabitha and her son are making good memories now; but there are so many bad ones.
April 25, 2013 stands out.
“My caseworker sits down beside me and says, ‘OK, I’m taking your kids.’ I just flipped out on her,” Tabitha said; we’re not using her last name.
The 29-year-old woman tested positive for meth and had her three young children were gone.
How often was she smoking the extremely addictive stimulant drug? “Pretty much all day,” she confessed.
Child advocates in Parker and Palo Pinto counties say meth use by parents is driving an astonishing increase in child removals… along with heartbreaking scenes of neglect.
“Probably the saddest story that comes to mind is the mother who was prostituting her four-year-old child in exchange for drugs,” said Trisha Duke, who volunteers for CASA, a non-profit that provides advocates for children in foster care in Parker and Palo Pinto counties.
Five years ago, Child Protective Services removed 16 children in Parker County. Last year, that figure skyrocketed to 110.
Palo Pinto County showed a smaller increase, but still nearly doubled from 34 removals to 65.
“I would say 70 percent of the cases at least have to do with meth,” Duke said.
“I started doing meth when I was 11,” said Johnny Forsyth Jr., who tells his story as a parent and a child. “Turned out, I started doing meth with my mother and father.”
His mother and father are both now serving time in prison; they have long criminal histories for drugs.
Johnny Jr. was four months out of prison when he was busted with about 30 others earlier this year in an undercover meth investigation.
He went to prison, joined a gang and covered his face with tattoos.
Forsyth has four kids. He says the day of his release, his gang gave him free meth.
“Right after that, I went and put a needle in my arm; didn’t even go see my kids like I promised,” he said.
Forsyth’s childhood sounds a lot like the extreme neglect that caseworkers now see.
“That’s the way I grew up,” he said. “No power. Poop in a bucket. You don’t even have toilets.”
CASA’s caseload has grown from 190 children in 2012 to 463. They expect 500 by the end of the year.
The agency currently has 132 volunteers she said they need at least 100 more.
“We are an overwhelmed system,” she said.
There aren’t nearly enough foster families, either; fewer than 50 in Parker and Palo Pinto counties. As a result, most kids removed from their families are sent someplace else.
“These counties are drowning,” Duke lamented.
The Parker County Attorney has asked for another lawyer just to handle the increase in CPS cases.
Tabitha has never been arrested for drugs; she got her children back after faithfully attending counseling and passing multiple drug tests.
Johnny Forsyth faces years in prison.
“I don’t want my children here,” he said. “I got a letter from my daughter about three months ago. My oldest daughter is eight. She said she forgives me for everything I’ve done.”
Forsyth said he talked to News 8 because he wants others to learn from his mistakes.
“I want to break the chain,” he said. “You need to break the chain.”
He wishes he could hear what Tabitha heard the day she got her kids back; what she longs to hear every day.
“I love you.”