This is dedicated to Travis Holappa who was kidnapped, tortured and murdered on July 25, 2004 in Northern Minnesota. This was all due to meth. I am Travis' mother and I wish to make this devastation turn into a better thing by educating and exposing the truth about meth, the dangers, and the deadly consequences it brings about to individuals and communities.

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Location: Colorado, United States

I want to do what I can to educate people about what is going on around the world with the meth problem. I want people to know about it BEFORE they even get the idea to want to try it. It is a dangerous drug and will ruin your life as well as all those who love you. I am on a mission on behalf of my only son, Travis.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What is it like for a child to live in a meth lab? (Arizona)
Apart from the children themselves, those who best understand what it is really like for a child to live in a meth lab are the investigating police officers and child welfare workers. Twenty-two-year police veteran Tim Ahumada wrote the following story about his first meth lab bust.

Tyler-by Detective Tim Ahumada, Family Investigations Bureau, Phoenix Police Department (the victim's name has been changed to protect his identity)

I've been a police officer for 22 years, and for the past nine years I've investigated crimes against children. I see children that are broken, beaten, and sexually abused. Children that are found in meth labs, however, are different. These children are being abused emotionally and physically. Their parents choose to neglect them by using drugs. These parents are obsessed with methamphetamine.

Most physical abuse is grounds for removing a child from a home. With meth kids, you don't see the marks or bruises. Often meth kids go through day-to-day life with no one knowing that anything is wrong. The schools usually say that these kids are hyper or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). The meth exposed children carry their secret in silence.

I remember a child named Tyler. Tyler's mother is a meth user and has been found in a couple of meth lab investigations. Tyler was four years old when I first met him. He had lively button green eyes with jet-black hair. Tyler's favorite things were cars, trucks and tractors. He loves to eat hot dogs.

In Tyler's world his bedroom was the cleanest room in the house. It was also where his mother, and her boyfriend kept their drugs. Tyler's room was three feet from the converted bathroom that became the meth lab. Tyler had been diagnosed with asthma and was given medication to treat a respiratory problem. His mother did not tell the doctor that Tyler slept next to a meth lab.

In my interview with Tyler, he described that when Mommy's friends would come over they would sit in the living room smoking a glass pipe. Tyler was taught to take the pipe from one adult to the other.

Tyler did not attend school at the time, so his home was his world. His play area was outside the back door, and consisted of a dirt track for his cars. Tyler played there most of the time. The dirt track was made up of dirt, lab chemicals, and broken ceramic tiles.

During the investigation, I found Tyler's asthma medicine in the refrigerator. It was stored in the butter tray, right above the rotting hot dogs. The hot dogs had green fungus on them. Throughout the house I identified numerous hazards to a child. There were razor blades on all the counters that appeared to be used for lining out the drugs. The electrical system in the home was modified to accommodate the bathroom-based meth lab, bare electrical wires were stretched across the floor leading into the bathroom.

In this case, the mother's drug problem was so bad that her parental rights were going to be severed. However, the commissioner felt that this family needed another chance, so Tyler went back to his mother.

Meth children have a better chance at a normal life if they are removed from the Meth drug world. For the most part, their exposure is not long term. The long-term medical effects of meth exposure in childhood are not yet known. But what chance does a child have when the parent refuses to give up the drug?

The reason Tyler is so important to me is that he was my first meth lab investigation. I wanted to take this wonderful child home with me. I did not have a tractor to leave with Tyler at the conclusion of the interview. On a follow-up visit with me, Tyler brought me a tractor.

Suzie-by Nicole Kaufman, Department of Economic Security, Child Protective Services Investigator (the victim's name has been changed to protect her identity).

One time you are in a middle-to-upper class neighborhood with numbers on the home. The inside of the home might be clean and have children's toys. Another time you are on the outskirts of town with directions to follow the canal, turn at the dead end, then go to the big tree and turn left.

The children in homes with meth labs are often dirty and have not bathed. Caretakers using methamphetamines often fail to care properly for their children. When children are removed from their homes they rarely cry when they are being driven away. Instead they wonder when they can go back with their caretaker. They almost always ask: "Will my mommy be ok?"

School age children have usually assumed the role of caretaker for younger siblings. These children tend to struggle with the unfamiliar role of being a child. Sadly, some of these children are able to educate the worker on the production of methamphetamines as they have been used to assist in the cooking, sales, and distribution process of the drug. These children often are thankful that someone finally noticed the hell they were living in.

I remember a six-year-old child named Suzie. Suzie was the oldest in her sibling group. Suzie was so parentifed that she lost her childhood. I arrived to the home one mid day and Suzie was still in her nightgown. Suzie was very concerned for the well being of her siblings. Suzie was able to give me the family's demographic information more accurately than her mother.

Suzie's mother was arrested that day. Not only were the children put at great physical risk due to the methamphetamine lab located feet from where they slept, they were neglected. Suzie was essentially raising her younger siblings and in turn forced to give up her childhood.

Once back to the Advocacy Center, Suzie was bathed and given brand new, clean clothes. One of Suzie's infant siblings began to cry; Suzie stopped playing and asked if I needed her to take the sibling. I then explained to Suzie that her job is to be a kid and play and that she does not have to take care of the other children. Suzie looked at me with a tear in her eye and said: "really, you mean it." I told her that yes I really did mean it.

When Suzie came back to the Advocacy Center for a follow up visit a couple of weeks later, she came running up to me and gave me a hug. Suzie said: "Guess what, they (placement) don't make me take care of anyone, I just have to be a kid." Suzie said this with the smile that all children should have.

For more stories and letters from meth users and those affected by meth, visit the KCI website.


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