More depressing statistics hit the headlines. We are told that children of drug addicted parents, single or otherwise, are taking drugs when they’re barely into their teenage years. Kids of ten and eleven, and sometimes even younger, are dabbling with cannabis and alcohol as a precursor to harder drugs such as heroin and cocaine.
I have a confession to make. I have never used illegal drugs. I’ve never seen the need for them. I enjoy a good drink from time to time, and I’m an inveterate cigar smoker when permitted, but not so much as a joint has passed my lips in all my years of mortal coil, inhaled or otherwise. It’s not because of a privileged upbringing, as thousands of my equally privileged peers indulged, and it’s not for the lack of opportunity. I was around in the States during those heady ‘flower power’ days in the late sixties, the Chicago student riots of ’68, Woodstock and San Francisco, where we all wore flowers in our hair and the whole of North America, with one obvious exception, was stoned.
But enough of me, if that’s possible, and back to drug addicted parents and their drug addicted kids. In my family practice, the contrast between natural and adoptive parents has always amazed me. Within reason, and reason is stretched to the limit, natural parents can do what the f**k they like with their own kids, but adoptive parents are vetted, checked, assessed, interrogated, vetted again, and then, after a period of intense reappraisal, they may, if they’re lucky, make it onto a social services approved waiting list.
We don’t let young or old alike simply climb behind the wheel of a car and drive off into the blue yonder. They are tested on their theory, and then their practical aptitude, for the great adventures that lie ahead. If they fail, they have to retake the tests, again and again, until they reach the desired proficiency. It may not guarantee an accident free driving life, but at least it gives them a head start, and the rest of us some reassurance.
So why not parenting? Why not put ‘natural’ parents through the same hoops as adoptive parents? In my New Jerusalem, parents, single or otherwise, would be required to take a ‘parenting’ test. Habitual drug users would not be allowed to conceive until they were clean for at least two years. Prospective parents would have to pass theory and practical exercises in ‘parenting’ skills. They would have to show the necessary commitment to raising their children in the best interests of the children, with the love and support essential to give them the best possible start in life.
And if these ‘natural’ parents were to conceive without the required certificate of parenting competence, their offspring would be taken away from them and given to fully qualified ‘through the hoops’ adoptive parents, who would provide them with the love and support they crave and deserve. Spare us from another generation of drug addicts!
Postscript: At the risk of saying: “I told you so!” comes the news today [17th March 2008] that of the three children of drug addicted parents, one, aged two, has died, and the others, aged three and three months respectively, are seriously ill after swallowing their parents’ methadone prescription which, apparently, they mistook for cough medicine. How on earth does a three month old baby swallow anything not given to him by an adult? The world has gone mad!