Drug Epidemic Impacting Children

SIOUX FALLS ,S.D.- The drug epidemic in the United States is something that every community has become familiar with, even here in the Sioux Empire. The Sioux Falls Police Department made more than 7,600 drug-related arrests last year with a majority of the cases being meth-related. As the issue continues to be a growing problem, the epidemic is driving an increase in the number of children left neglected.

“To wake up every day and not have to worry about where I’m going to get my next beer or my next fix,” says Recovering Addict and Mother, Rachel Erickson.

It’s been a fight for Rachel Erickson to get to this point. She’s been off alcohol and meth for 223 days. The longest she says she’s ever been sober in her life.

“I’m too old for all of this stuff, I really am. I can live such a better life,” says Erickson.

Erickson says her addiction started at an early age and progressed as she got older. After multiple DUI’s and being charged for possession of meth, she lost her children. They were placed with their biological father. She remembers it as one of the hardest days of her life.

“I’m always going to feel guilty; that guilt will probably never go away,” says Erickson.

Although it took having to lose her children, she says it was also when she knew it was time to turn things around. She’s now able to see her children with supervision.

“I’m going to be a part of my children’s lives and I’m going to see them grow up,” says Erickson. “They are not going to grow up saying my mom wasn’t there,”

Diane Bauch has witnessed parents like Erickson lose their children due to drug addiction. It’s what inspired her to help.

“The drug epidemic has just taken over and there’s so many kids coming to care every week,” says Sioux Falls CASA Program Volunteer, Diane Bauch.

Bauch became a CASA volunteer 10 years ago. CASA stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocates.” These advocates help keep children safe while parents work on getting clean.

Although it hasn’t been an easy 10 years, Bauch says she feels this is her purpose in life.

“I do the best that I can and I just hope that at some point in time, it will have benefit these children,” says Bauch.

Its volunteers like Bauch that help the Sioux Falls CASA organization continue to thrive. Over the past year, the non-profit has seen a significant increase in the number of drug related cases involving children.

“More than 90 percent of our cases right now either one or both of the parents are addicted to meth or another type of drug,” says Sioux Falls CASA Program Executive Director, Taryn Sietsema.

There are currently 250 children on the waiting list with CASA, but not enough volunteers to help.

“The more volunteers we have the greater chance these kids have at being successful in life,” says Bauch.

As the drug epidemic continues to grow, officials with CASA hope those in the Sioux Empire will step up and help.

“The situation these kids are faced with on a daily basis is just scary and sad,” says Sietsema.

For parents like Erickson, it’s another chance at life and for the kids, a chance to feel secure while their family works to get back on their feet.

“Don’t ever give up hope, because I really thought there was no hope for me and I’m here,” says Erickson.

In order to be a CASA volunteer you have to be 21 years and older and go through 30 hours of initial training. For information about the next training in January and how to get involved visit: https://siouxfallscasa.org/



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