Tragedy of ‘drug home children’

Educators sometimes place children in categories. The more you know about an individual student, the more effectively you can educate him or her.

It may be time to start using a new category — drug home children. West Virginia state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley, seems to agree.

One of the basics in education is that children from “low socio-economic” groups don’t do as well as others in school.

Some studies indicate that children from low SES families enter high school about five years behind their peers in terms of academics.

There are exceptions, of course. Some children from dirt-poor families do well in school, then go on to very successful lives. In general, however, lower SES means a child has one or two strikes against him or her.

A family’s financial status is one key to SES, but there are others. According to the American Psychological Association, “Socioeconomic status encompasses not just income but also educational attainment, financial security, and subjective perceptions of social status and social class. Socioeconomic status can encompass quality of life attributes as well as the opportunities and privileges afforded to people within society. Poverty, specifically, is not a single factor but rather is characterized by multiple physical and psychosocial stressors. Further, SES is a consistent and reliable predictor of a vast array of outcomes across the life span, including physical and psychological health.”

Homes where drug abuse is present mimic lower SES, in some ways. Think about it: Effectively, incomes are lowered because of spending on illicit drugs. Parents spend less time with their children. They are less interested in success at school.

And, as I’ve written previously, it can get worse, to the point of physical and emotional neglect and abuse.

Of course, there’s even worse: Children who came into the world addicted, because their mothers were substance abusers while pregnant. There are more of them than you may realize.

Drug abuse is an epidemic in West Virginia, and Unger thinks it needs to be taken into account in public schools.

I’ve known many teachers, including some very, very good ones. They watch students closely and are attuned to problems — chief among them, in my opinion, lack of parental involvement in children’s education.

So many teachers know when youngsters are having problems at home. The educators do what they can to overcome those challenges.

More intensive, expert help couldn’t hurt.

Unger wants just that. He wants to earmark state fund to provide school services for 3-year-olds. We already have a very good pre-kindergarten system for 4-year-olds.

Unger’s idea is that getting the younger kids involved could get those from drug homes off to a better start.

Probably so — assuming their parents cooperate. That’s another can of worms.

Unger hasn’t said how much money he has in mind, as far as I know. It wouldn’t be cheap. But it — and even more, to expand what we do to help children from both drug homes and other low SES environments — would be money well spent in West Virginia.

It has been said we’re losing much of a generation to drug abuse. That’s true. But we also need to realize that unless we do something about it, we’re going to lose that generation’s children, too.

Myer can be reached at: