FILED IN: Child Abuse

Why do drug addicted parents retain custody of their children?

Not unlike many drug addicts’ homes, Jessica Kasten’s house was a garbage refuge and only one of the things that was sorely neglected in her life. Officers who were called to investigate the scene of a crime against a child — an infant to be more precise — called the home deplorable. Drug paraphernalia was littered all over the floor, well within reach of the children that lived there.

Jessica, a 25 year old mother of three, left her children unsupervised while a pot sat burning on the stove for almost 24 hours. The children, including a 2-year-old and an 18-month-old, were reportedly covered in soot from head to toe with soot in their ears and nose. They’re lucky to be alive.

Not so lucky however, was her 6 month old infant, Gavin Fochs, who suffocated while his mother slept off her drug induced stupor.

When the baby was finally found, his hands were clenched and he had already entered into rigor mortis, indicating that he had been dead several hours. Apparently, his mother was too out of it to notice that the baby was in trouble as the pillow she put in his bassinet was the source of his asphyxiation.

Unfortunately, this story echoes a problem across our country — drug mothers completely neglecting their children. In an effort to feed their addictions they create yet another generation of completely messed up and abused children who often go on to repeat the cycle. In a country where privacy and minding one’s own business is regarded as sacred, this self -indulgent, apathetic, anti-social society can’t dismiss their partial blame for neglect happening right under their noses.

The second part of this tragedy comes again at the expense of baby Gavin. A year after she put her needs above her 3 small children and chose drugs over them, she might have been the shining example of redemption had she served her time and allowed her children a better life than what she could provide them.

Instead, an out of touch judge gave Jessica Kasten another chance. Apparently neglect resulting in death of a infant just isn’t important enough to overcrowd a jail. Perhaps if her neglect would have lead to several deaths of adults, the judge would have seen it differently, because adults are people and infants can be replaced?

For whatever his reason, Judge Patrick Brady of Wausau County, Wisconsin, saw it fit to reward a drug mother instead of honoring little Gavin in a way that says that we will not tolerate abusive, neglectful mothers. After all, the judge is taking a leap of faith of the abilities and capabilities of a mother who would fall into this self-absorbed disconnect of motherhood to begin with. All we can hope for is that his gift to the surviving children doesn’t turn out with the same fate as their infant brother.

Although outside drug treatment programs boast a 50% higher rate of success than those of prisons, the real tragedy in this is the lost life of baby Gavin and how the courts view the worth of that tiny baby. While this mother will likely have to undergo continual drug testing and stay within treatment programs, to allow her to go on with her life without any consequence or accountability is a crime in and of itself.

Some may contest that she’ll have to live with the pain and guilt of allowing her baby to die under the influence of drugs. However, studies show that most drug addicts have narcissistic, highly addictive, hedonistic personalities, many are abusive to their children, and have the inability to cope with stress or anxiety. One must question whether these mothers can be caring and nurturing people in the best of times.

Other drug rehabilitation programs claim they have 80% continued success rates, but studies have shown that is only applicable to mothers that are given free childcare and financial support. So the question remains, do mothers who neglect and mistreat their children deserve to live off the system and walk away from the crimes they’ve committed?

So what’s the answer? Jessica Kasten’s surviving children probably do love their mother and would rather be with her than in some random, strange house in a the unpredictable foster care system. Often times children are abused within the very system that tries to save them.

The problem with allowing Jessica Kasten off with a promise to be good is the gamble society takes in letting a junkie who sacrificed one of her children for her own self grandeur, that she will make good decisions and change her behavior. There is a good argument here somewhere that if she really wanted to do right by her remaining children, she should have to work for it.

To let her off just feels like a terrible injustice and dismissal of Gavin’s life. She should have to pay and give back to society what she stole. She doesn’t deserve her two surviving children and her children don’t deserve a mother who failed and mistreated them.

Social services claims they will work with this mother for a year. After a year, it’s Jessica’s lack of mothering skills her children will have to rely on. I hope for their sake, their mother defies all statistics and doesn’t resort back to her past. It will be a miracle if these children grow up unscathed, especially considering up to 50% of addicts in methamphetamine  treatment programs relapse. Are those statistics you’d gamble your child’s life on? Is our society willing to give children a 50/50 chance and reward mothers whose vices have killed their children?