Kids found in unsafe Northland drug houses

By Kristin Edge -
Children have been found by police living in unsafe drug houses. Photo / Thinkstock
Children have been found by police living in unsafe drug houses. Photo / Thinkstock

A 3-month-old baby was the youngest of 17 children found by police living in unsafe drug houses during the annual cannabis blitz.

The children from six different homes across Northland have all been referred to Child Youth and Family after police became concerned about the dangerous drug environments they were living in.

During the operation, code-named Ruth, teams of Northland police destroyed 48,546 cannabis plants growing in various urban and rural locations.

The statistics involving children do not surprise the head of the operation, Detective Sergeant John Miller, who said many Northland children were exposed to the illegal drug trade by those trusted to care for them.

"If the kids are exposed to drugs we see that as a major problem. We take steps to make sure that behaviour doesn't carry on and refer the cases to CYF," Mr Miller said.

In the Far North, a 3-month-old baby and three other siblings aged, 3, 6 and 9 were in a house where cannabis plants were being grown inside, and an adult at the house was charged with cultivating cannabis and possession of cannabis.

In another Kaikohe house, officers were concerned about three children all aged under 5.

"This involved cannabis, but in a lot of other houses there are harder drugs and these people are using needles and smoking utensils that are dangerous to the kids."

Mr Miller said there was more of a national police emphasis on reporting children found in drug houses but it had always been a focus for police in Northland.

"Somewhere along the line we have to break the cycle.

"These kids aren't getting a chance. They have to be witnesses to drug use and the effects of it. In some cases it would become the norm."

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett was shocked to hear that six families had been referred to CYF after children were found in homes where cannabis was being grown or dealt.

"It's absolutely appalling that children are around drugs in their homes. Drugs, but methamphetamine in particular, are bad. That (CYF referrals) speaks volumes about the adults, that they are not taking the care and protection of their children seriously," she said.

Ms Bennett said there was now much better co-operation between police and CYF in responding to such cases, which was "really important".

CYF Tai Tokerau regional director Marion Heeney said children who grew up in families where there was drug use could face a range of concerns, including lack of adequate supervision, inconsistent parental guidance, and health problems.

"CYF has also seen a relationship between adult drug use and family violence. This can have a major impact on any children, both mentally and emotionally. Drugs and/or alcohol are often present in cases where we are notified about family violence," she said.

When police contact CYF in relation to children being exposed to drugs, a social worker would assess the situation to determine the best response to the family.

However, if police had immediate safety concerns they could remove the children and place them in CYF care.

Anyone who knows or fears children are living in unsafe homes should call police or Child, Youth and Family on 0508 FAMILY (0508 326 459).

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