Children And Grow-ops Don't Mix

LdyLunatic

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British Columbia
29 Sep 2006


by Andrew Holota, editor of The Surrey Leader,
In the past year, 155 children were found to be living in homes investigated as marijuana grow operations in Surrey. It's a startling, deeply disturbing statistic. ( See story, page 13. )

Think of a marijuana grow operation, and you're likely to conjure an image of a converted house containing pot plants and a couple of low-level shady characters care-taking the crop.

You're not liable to think of a family, including innocent children, living in a house featuring highly hazardous conditions created by jury-rigged electrical wiring, and which could at any time be the target of a extremely violent rip-off attempt.

Yet those are the facts, and they carry major implications for the provincial children and families ministry.

The figure above reflects but a fraction of the mind-boggling actual numbers related to this issue.

Consider that these 155 kids were only discovered by city inspectors and firefighters investigating B.C. Hydro reports of excessive electricity use in 353 homes. The statistic does not include grow ops busted by police. In Surrey, RCMP recorded 386 pot production files in 2005, and opened 486 so far this year.

There are literally hundreds of children growing up in grow op homes in the Lower Mainland - thousands more throughout the province.

Aside from the acute personal danger and risk which these kids face, they represent a massive draw on government social worker resources.

Each time kids are found in a grow op by police or inspection teams, a report is filed with the Ministry of Children and Families. Each incident must be investigated, requiring hours of a social worker's time.

The children's ministry is infamous for its refusal to provide information or comment on its cases.

This situation is no different. Officials will not say how many of these 155 kids were taken from their families, if any.

It is an appalling lack of information on a matter of the deepest public interest.

Every incident of grow op kids that a ministry social worker must investigate represents time which that individual is not spending on other cases that may be equally if not far more serious.

Kids in grow op houses may indeed be living relatively normal lives, apart from their hazardous surroundings and the criminal pursuits of their parents.

That's unsettling, to be sure, but nowhere near the terrible conditions faced by other children in "ordinary" homes, including horrific physical and sexual abuse, hunger, isolation and parental drug use.

Those are the kids that most acutely require the attention of ministry workers. If they don't get it, their suffering is unimaginable, and the potential of death is entirely real.

It is no secret that ministry workers are spread thin - shouldering huge caseloads exacerbated in recent years by government funding cutbacks and endless restructuring iniatives.

That workload cannot be anything but increasing due to the phenomenonal proliferation of pot operations across the province, and the fact that many involve kids.

The public absolutely must know what level of resources grow ops are drawing from the children's ministry, and the short- and long-term effects.

It is information that must be taken into account by taxpayers, the criminal justice system, and by federal politicians who must deliberate on the ramifications of existing marijuana laws.

The criminalization of pot, and the money-soaked illegal industry created as a result, clearly affects more than just law enforcement and justice system resources.

There are deep implications for the most innocent and vulnerable of victims - children.

This issue must be brought out of the shadows.
 

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