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Starting this month, young children of parents in Family Treatment Drug Courts in Lincoln and Omaha will receive additional child-focused services as their parents progress through drug court.

Family Treatment Drug Courts already provide increased services and monitoring for parents in the child welfare system because of substance abuse problems.

The new program -- Project Safe Start-Nebraska -- will provide services directly to children 5 and younger who have meth-addicted parents and enhance support services for parents, caregivers and families.

Scott Carlson, state coordinator for Nebraska Problem Solving Courts, said the use of methamphetamine by parents poses significant risks to their children, and young children are at increased risk of abuse and neglect.

He said national studies say most cases of mistreatment by substance-abusing parents involve children younger than five, and even when a parent stops using, the child still may have symptoms of stress, depression and trust problems.

The project, which will expand services in Douglas County and develop the services in Lancaster County, aims to help these children.

Carlson said therapists would work with the parent-child pair to help the child recover from the trauma of the parent's drug use and help improve their relationship.

Nebraska is one of six states to get a federal grant for children affected by meth. The project, administered through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, is funded for four years at $370,000 per year.

Lancaster County Juvenile Judge and Family Treatment Drug Court Judge Roger Heideman said he was pleased to have the additional resources.

"We are always concerned about the infants and toddlers who have experienced the trauma of parental drug addiction. This grant will help us directly address the needs of the young children. At the same time, we work to help the parent stop their drug abuse," he said.

Reach Lori Pilger at 402-473-7237 or



Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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