Help available for kids coping with parents’ addiction to opioids

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – The opioid epidemic leaves a mark on so many in the East Tennessee community. Two children were found last week by the Knoxville Police Department in a car parked at a gas station on Tazewell Pike.

Police found a woman unconscious and a second overdose victim, a man, inside the car with the children. EMS gave the man and woman the overdose antidote Naloxone.

While names haven’t been released, DCS was called to take care of the children while the man and woman were sent to the hospital.

Previous story: KPD: Two arrested after overdosing with kids in car

One mom who’s wrestled with addiction says conversations about drug use are not easy, but it’s a reality that needs to be talked about. Sara Alese has a job at Project ACT that’s given her purpose and so much more.

“I get to pick up my kids at school and from daycare and be more of a mom,” she said.

She says her new beginning started in 2014, but getting to today hasn’t been easy.

“I remember sitting in the bathroom one time with the door locked, wondering if I was going to overdose and how long it would take for somebody to find me or find my children,” said Alese.

When it comes to drugs and drug overdoses, there’s guilt and shame. Families often turn to the Helen Ross McNabb Center for help.

“A lot of times the question is, ‘What could’ve I done different? Could I have helped? and Why?’ They want to know why they want to do that and where is it coming from,” said Kristin Bradley, a prevention and early intervention services coordinator.

She says therapists work closely with the children as well as their families because any kind of drug use in the home can impact a child’s brain functions.

“You can see a lack of security in their development, meaning that they are constantly on guard,” said Bradley.

It also creates an environment of worry and stress, so sometimes DCS has to get involved.

“No child can be measured the same. Some kids come in and they adjust well and fine. Some kids initially come in and they appear to be fine and then days later they experience a longing or missing of their parents,” said Carren Broadnax, a resource linkage coordinator for the Knox County Department of Children’s Services.

Bradley says little ones and teenagers need to be in a nurturing home with adults who are patient.

“Our goal is to see those kids in safe homes. Our goal is to try to help repair families,” she said.

Alese is successful today and has a word of advice to anyone who may be vulnerable.

“Learn how to take care of yourself and become that parent that you didn’t have or want to be.”

DCS says for the 2017 fiscal year July 1 to June 30, Knox County had 565 kids come into foster care. Of those, the department says 254 were caused by parental substance abuse.

DCS does not track cases by specific drugs or by overdoses, they say regardless of the substance or what may have happened they stand by ready to help children in crisis.

At this time they’re needing adults or families in the community to step up and become foster parents.

More online: More information on becoming a foster parent

There are many resources for adults wrestling with addiction or families in crisis. Staff at the Helen Ross McNabb Center say early intervention can greatly help in the recovery process.

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