Atkinson Lewis, an organisation supporting legal professionals and local authorities in child care cases that feature substance abuse, has declared that some professionals are only commissioning tests for two forms of drugs, in a bid to cut costs. However, the organisation is highlighting the fact that drugs are often cross-contaminated with other drugs. Testing for only two or three of those drugs can have serious implications on the case and the children’s future.
Illegal drugs are not monitored so we’re never certain which drugs are actually being consumed after purchase. Drugs often contain elements of other drugs in deliberate contamination, i.e. permutations of drugs, where substances are ‘laced’ with other substances.
No one can predetermine which drugs a user has consumed from their attitude and appearance alone. This is why Atkinson Lewis encourages the nine-panel testing of drugs in cases where parental substance abuse is suspected.
Atkinson Lewis’s nine panel drug test covers tests for Amphetamines, Methamphetamines, Cannabis, Opiates, Cocaine, Methadone, Benzodiazepines, Tramadol and Mephedrone which are the most common substances circulating today.
With 200 million illicit drug users worldwide, legal professionals and social workers must take full precautions to ensure that children are not at risk from their parents’ substance abuse.
It has been estimated that between 250,000 and 350,000 children in the UK have a parent with a drug problem. Moreover, 62% of children involved in care proceedings had a substance misusing parent, whilst half of foster care cases involve children from substance abusing families.
We are all affected by what happens to us as children. Children of addicts may see their parent passed out, angry or upset. Children could even be left alone for long periods and forced to make difficult decisions. Children of addicts are often left caring for the rest of the family and the household responsibilities.
These situations can stop a child’s progress at school. Being left with too much responsibility and being overwhelmed by the burden can have devastating long term effects on families.
Atkinson Lewis believes that assumptions should not be made about a parent or carer’s substance abuse as these issues can be easily misconstrued.
David Atkinson who has worked with child care cases for over 15 years said “As it is evident that the number of drugs being abused, including prescription drugs, is increasing we have been looking for cost effective ways by which we can determine what drugs were actually being abused by individuals which is not always what they claim to use.
“The experience of our experts clearly indicates that drug users will change from using one drug to another or they may be using a cocktail of drugs.”
Costs and legislation from the Ministry of Justice and the Legal Services Commission rule that expenses should be kept to a minimum, however these restrictions have consequences on the children and parents involved in such cases. Yet, Atkinson Lewis can issue a nine-panel drug test for the same cost as the latter.
Atkinson Lewis have actually recognised this and tackled the problem head on. Through negotiations, they have agreed on a pricing structure that allows their clients to test for the full spectrum of drug use for a reasonable price. The organisation is dedicated to achieving the most accurate and clearest picture of parental substance misuse because in line with the Practice Direction for Experts in Family Proceedings Relating to Children, the organisation has an overriding duty to the court.
The long term effects of not attaining a clear picture can be a matter of life or death. The ‘Baby P’ case in which the actions of the child’s drug addicted mother resulted in the child’s death has set a precedent for professionals working in the sector and has helped to identify the gravity of such cases.