SAVED BY GRAN'S LOVE
Author: Maria Croce
Daily Record (UK)
Mon, 29 May 2006
A New Scottish Executive Policy Promises To Help Identify The Children WHO Are At Risk Because Their Parents Are Drug Addicts.
Here, We Talk To One Grandmother WHO Is Rasing Her Daughter's Yound Family Because She Is Too Hooked On Heroin To Care
When Jack McConnell unveiled the Scottish Executive's new policy to identify the at-risk children of drug users, he made it clear their safety has to come first.
The policy, Hidden Harm - Next Steps, calls for help for the 60,000 children in Scotland who are affected by parental drug misuse.
And that action can't come too soon for the children who've lived with the horror of an addict parent.
In many cases, grandparents or other relatives are left to pick up the pieces and raise the traumatized youngsters as best they can.
The Lighthouse Foundation in Ayrshire supports these families and has launched an appeal to raise cash to send children and their carers on a muchneeded caravan holiday.
Here, we talk to one woman who is raising her two grandchildren because her daughter is a heroin addict.
We have also printed a letter from her eight-year-old granddaughter. It makes painful reading.
Pauline's* three children had grown up and she was looking forward to the fun of days out with her grandchildren. Instead, she's become the full-time carer to two of them.
Pauline, 49, from Ayrshire, said: "They've seen things they never should have seen, like their mum injecting heroin. "When I found them they were dirty and hungry. Their mum wasn't looking after them - she'd been addicted for seven years and wasn't coping."
Pauline suffers from emphysema and her husband has had a heart attack. But instead of taking it easy after raising their own family, they're starting again with Rebecca*, eight, and three-year-old Ben*.
Around 18 months ago, Pauline stepped in to look after the two children, when she realised their mum was neglecting them.
She said: "Rebecca still loves her mother but she doesn't trust her. I love her too and I don't trust her either. She's tried to get off heroin but she just keeps going back to it.
"I worry about what they've seen when they were living with their mum. I know they've seen her injecting - and that's one thing I can't forgive my daughter for allowing to happen.
"She wasn't buying food for he r children. A big proportion of her benefits were going on drugs."
It's all a far cry from the golden years Pauline had been expecting.
She said: "I'd been looking forward to growing older, enjoying playing with my grandchildren - I'd never expected to be a parent to them. My other grandchildren miss out because I don't have the time or energy left to see more of them.
"I don't keep so well so I find it very tiring. It takes away a lot of the fun that you should have with your grandchildren when you've got them 24 hours a day with the worry of being a parent again.
"Pauline says she receives child benefit and tax credits but, as a relative, doesn't get the same level of funding paid to foster carers and struggles to make ends meet.
And she has the added stress of not knowing how her own child is.
"I still worry about my daughter - even though I now don't even know where she lives," she admitted. "I wait for the police to come to my door to say she's dead or been murdered. She was a clever girl but any talent she had has been ruined by drugs. She's lost so much weight and her teeth are rotten.
"But it's the kids of addicts who really suffer. My grandchildren's heads were crawling with lice.
"Now they're clean, they're fed and they're happy.
"They know if they're promised something they are going to get it. Rebecca knows if she goes to school the TV and video will still be here when she comes home. Before, her mum sold them for a UKP10 bag.
"Every Christmas they'd open their presents but then their mum would sell the gifts by Boxing Day to buy drugs.
"When they first came to live with us Rebecca was quite withdrawn.
"She wrongly blames herself for her mother being an addict. Sometimes she rocks backwards and forwards saying, 'It's all my fault', which is heart-breaking."
Pauline added: "My daughter blamed me for taking her children away from her. I feel sorry for my her, but it's the children I feel most sorry for. I feel like I've lost my daughter - she's like a stranger because heroin has changed her."
Ann Mitchell, development officer for The Lighthouse Foundation, said: "More should be done to help the grandparents looking after children of addicts.
"The children of addicts have been traumatised. We have identified 250 of these children living in Ayrshire alone.
"We can't take away the memories of what they've seen, but we try to meet the children's needs."
The charity has launched an appeal to send the 250 children and their grandparents on a caravan holiday in a bid to help them forget the horrors they've been through.
Names have been changed to protect their identities.
No One Played With ME At School
Letter from Rebecca*, aged 8, from Ayrshire.
My mum is a heroin addict. She has been ever since I can remember.
Using drugs was normal in my house. I was used to seeing my mum and her boyfriend sticking needles into each other then falling asleep.
Last Christmas my mum locked me and my wee brother out of the house. We had to sit on the step. It was very cold.
We were crying for her to let us in but she didn't. She was sleepy because of the drugs.
She doesn't care about me and my wee brother.
When we lived with my mum and her boyfriend I didn't like the people who came to my house.
They used drugs in front of us, they used needles too. I was scared. I cried because I was afraid of the people.
I wanted them to go away but I was always sent to my room where I used to cry into my pillow until I fell asleep.
It's my fault that mum takes drugs, she shouted it at me all the time.
I wasn't allowed to tell anyone what happened in our house. I wanted to go out and play but I was scared I wouldn't be able to get back in and there would be nowhere else for us to go. I used to try to iron my brother's clothes but the iron was heavy and I burnt my arm.
My friends couldn't come over because my house was messy and dirty and I didn't want them to see it.
I wanted to be like the other boys and girls in my class but my clothes were dirty and I had lice.I never went to birthday parties because I had no nice clothes and I couldn't buy presents. No one played with me. They all said mum was a junkie.
Some days I didn't go to school because I didn't have any clean clothes so I just stayed at home.
One day some kids chased me and called me smelly. They started to hit me and they were really horrible to me. I didn't know what to do. I didn't say anything and I sat by myself in the playground.
When gran found out where we stayed she was angry and I heard her say mum wasn't looking after us properly.
Gran took us back to her house and we got proper dinners, instead of biscuits and cornflakes.
My gran looks after us now and we feel safe.
Gran goes to a place called The Lighthouse Foundation and she talks to the people there. I go there sometimes and they take me on trips. I went horse riding and met a girl who I like a lot. She lives with her gran too.
The Lighthouse said they will try to send us and gran on holiday which would be fun.