Forced Treatment Law Used Only In Worst Cases, AADAC
by Mike Sadava, The Edmonton Journal, (15 Jul 2006) Edmonton Journal Alberta
Benefits Far Outweigh Risk To Child's Civil Liberties, Parent Says
EDMONTON - Parents of children with drug problems say a new program forcing the kids into treatment may not be a cure, but at least it's a start.
Ten children in Alberta under the age of 18 have been ordered by the courts to spend five days in a safe house, where they come down from drugs, receive counselling and develop a treatment plan.
Most of the minors in the program so far are from the Calgary area. Only one is from the Edmonton region.
As of July 1, when the Protection of Children Abusing Drugs Act came into effect, parents have the right to use the courts in this manner.
The new law has been attacked by the Alberta Civil Liberties Association, which has said it could be open to abuse by vengeful parents.
But AADAC and members of Parents Empowering Parents, the group that pushed for the legislation, feel that only kids with serious drug problems are being scooped up by the program.
Korey Cherneski, a spokesman with AADAC, said the safeguards are adequate because the applications go through the courts. None of the applications have yet been turned down. Because the decision to issue an apprehension order falls under the discretion of a judge, AADAC is confident that young people who don't have serious drug problems won't be apprehended just because their parents are angry at them, Cherneski said.
Jennifer, a Sherwood Park woman who has dealt with her son's drug problems since he was 14, can't take advantage of the program now that he is 19.
But as a member of Parents Empowering Parents, she thinks the benefits far outweigh the risks to a child's civil liberties.
"How does an addict make a proper choice? I don't care if they're 14, 44 or 74, they're not thinking straight. If they were, they wouldn't be addicts and they'd be getting some form of help."
She feels the risk of a parent turning in a child out of spite is minimal. To get a court order, a parent would have to appear before a judge and make a sworn statement about the child's actions, the extent of the problem, indicators such as falling grades in school and information about what is happening in the family.
"We're not trying to lock them up because of misbehaviour on the weekend. We're saying this child has a problem and we want to save his life," Jennifer said.
She said the children won't be "cured" in five days of treatment. She would prefer to see longer time limits, even up to 90 days, depending on the case.
Jennifer said she could have used the program when her son's drug problems started to surface. They tried everything to break his cocaine addiction, with little progress.
Her son now lives away from home. She doesn't know how he's doing with his addiction struggles, but suspects it will be a lifelong problem.