Inside Aussie families’ ice hell
Government workers who help families battle ice addiction have revealed the dangerous and squalid conditions endured by NSW children raised in homes and communities afflicted by the drug.
Family and Community Services managers fronted a special NSW inquiry into the drug ice in Sydney on Thursday.
St Marys FACS manager Azure Green said most families where her service intervenes are affected by ice.
"They struggle with the addiction," she said, referring to parents battling methamphetamine in Sydney's west.
"In our area, we work with families who are in poverty and they seem to be able to afford this drug and access it. It seems very available."
Children in households reported to FACS often witness more than just a chaotic and unreliable parenting situation when the drug is involved, Ms Green said.
They are routinely victims or witnesses to domestic violence and sexual abuse. "What we see is that parents are unavailable to protect their children," the protection worker told the commission.
"There are often a lot of different people coming in and out of the home using drugs." Mothers have been choked "to the point of brain damage", raped and beaten - in the same home as their children - by abusive partners exhibiting the aggression associated with the drug.
Ice is increasing the amount and severity of family violence of men toward women, Ms Green said.
Multiple families in housing commission flats or neighbourhoods can be addicted, leaving groups of children unattended as their parents take drugs together. School attendance can be disrupted for weeks at a time and Ms Green said she's seen many kids go without medical treatment for conditions like type 1 diabetes or vision and speech impairments.
The home itself is not a place of safety either.
"We see smashed and broken windows, doors that don't lock, bathrooms where the bath is not in a state where a child could be bathed in it," she said, adding unsafe items are often left out.
"At times it's syringes, at times it's ice pipes or bags of the drug, or nails, knives, also household hazardous implements that aren't put away." Ms Green said caseworkers who stick with addicts through lapses and relapses are often key to families getting back on track.
"It can be hard, time after time after time of needing to be there and believing the parent can make that change."