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February 7, 2006 - Kentucky Post (KY)

Turning In Parents Takes 'Guts'

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It's a rare act of courage when children turn their drug-using parents in to police, says an expert on children from troubled homes.

"It takes a lot of guts because a child really doesn't know what is going to happen," said Connie Freking, youth service department director for the Brighton Center, a multi-program social service agency headquartered in Newport.

"It also takes a lot of love. I don't think a child's first thought is that the parents may go to jail. The first thought is, 'They need help. We need help. I need help.' In the long run, they're looking out for their family's best interest."

She said in her 10 years at Brighton Center, she could recall only four or five cases of children taking such an extreme step.

The latest was Friday in Boone County. A 16-year-old boy told his high school resource police officer about his parents' home-based marijuana growing operation, and Boone County Sheriff's Department deputies arrested his parents at their Hebron home.

John Williams, 51, and Jennifer Williams, 36, were charged with cultivating marijuana, possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia. Deputies also seized a cache of weapons from the home.

Sheriff's department spokesman Deputy Tom Scheben said he didn't know what motivated the 16-year-old to turn in his parents.

"We could say he was mad at his mom and dad or we could say he didn't want his 10-year-old brother to live in that environment," he said.

Scheben agreed the case was unusual. "When I was 16, I wouldn't have thought about going against my mom and dad," he said. "The reason is because I respected them both. Of course, you love and respect them because they weren't dealing dope."

Freking, speaking in general terms about drug-using parents and not about the Boone County case, said children today are more aware of drug issues than previous generations were.

"Nowadays, kids get a lot of information on what could happen to their family because of drugs," she said. "These kids are very resilient. They have a lot of things going for themselves, and they don't want to see it all go down the tubes.

"It takes courage to reach out for what we need and say enough is enough. It takes a lot for a kid to get to that point. Just think how long it takes adults. It definitely takes a very resourceful child."

Freking said when a child turns parents over to police, the welfare of the child is of paramount importance. Authorities assess the situation and, if necessary, remove the child from the home.

"If the home is not safe, children can be put in an emergency shelter or a relative's care or in state foster care," said Freking.

The Williamses have been released on bond. Scheben said he didn't know if their sons were with them or living elsewhere.

A call to Northern Kentucky offices of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services' Department of Community-Based Services was not returned.

Freking said children's allegations of their parents using drugs are sometimes difficult to authenticate.

"A child may say, 'My parents are using drugs,' but without evidence, it is difficult to call in the legal authorities," she said.

Scheben said the couple's older son gave authorities detailed enough information that they were able to get a search warrant for the home.

"We have to name particulars -- what room the marijuana is growing in, what rooms have weapons -- and he gave enough specific information that we got the search warrant," said Scheben.

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