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Special Report: Harmful Homes - Part II
KALAMAZOO, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - Meth is an addiction that consumes every aspect of your life.
For many addicts, they choose their habit over their families--even their children.
In many cases, children in these situations are not only neglected, but also exposed to some very dangerous chemicals.
Newschannel 3 took a look at how these children live, and met a mother who beat the odds.
In 2013, 108 children were pulled from homes as a result of meth incidents.
It's the sad reality of addiction that we so often overlook.
These are the silent victims--the forgotten ones in a horrific habit that continues to plague West Michigan.
For many, the battle is never-ending.
But one Van Buren County mom was triumphant and is now rebuilding relationships that she, at one time, had given up.
We see the condemned homes, the arrests, and the cycle through the court system.
But rarely do we see these little faces--the children of meth addicts.
"We could tell that she was messed up because her eyes were always so big and she was always walking weird," said 9-year-old Kaley Terry.
Kaley and 6-year-old Brandon were so young when their mom--Jewel Dailey--was using meth.
"I was offered a line and that's all it took," Jewel said.
But they remember pieces.
"I dipped my strawberry into lye and I licked it," Kaley said. "I got it on my lip and that's when mom came to help."
For some 16 years, meth was Jewel's number one priority.
But that meant when Kaley, Brandon and their two other siblings were with their mom ... They were often left fending for themselves.
"When mommy promised, and I did make that one promise out of a thousand, I would put them in environments that wasn't healthy or safe," Jewel said, adding that those environments were full of chaos, drama and abusive relationships, with people constantly coming and going.
"We were like scared because we didn't know what those people were going to and we didn't know if they were going to do something to us or go with mom," Kaley said.
"A lot of times no supervision, because I usually was pursuing drugs in the bedroom and they weren't allowed to come in," Jewel said. "A lot of times the environment wasn't clean, the house wasn't clean until I would get so high, and then I'd come out and clean three days straight."
While many meth situations start much like this one, not all end the same way.
If a parent is caught living this dangerous lifestyle, the children can be removed from the home.
At first glance, Child Protective Services or the courts may look to the other parent.
"The reality of the situation for a lot of our kids that we serve: father's unknown, father's incarcerated or father's really had nothing to do with the child," said Tiffany Ankley with the Kalamazoo County Circuit Court Family Division.
Ankley sees these cases all too often.
"It is so addictive, the effects that it has on the chemical components of the brain, we see relapse, quite a bit. And relapse after reunification that results in a subsequent removal can even be more traumatic for the children," she said.
If a parent isn't an option, then Ankley must decide what's the next best place for the children.
"If available, and if appropriate, they're going home with a relative; if not we have to look at foster placements," she said.
Jewel's children were not in foster care but they did spend time away from mom.
Kaley remembers a time when she and Brandon had to live with some of mom's friends for a while.
"Brandon would always cry to me at night, and he would ask me is mom coming back," Kaley said. "I said, 'yea everything's going to be fine mom would come back.'"
"We didn't tell anybody that we would cry because sometimes we would get in trouble for crying at night," she added.
Then in 2010, Jewel's life changed.
She was arrested, and was offered a spot in the Van Buren County Drug Treatment Court instead of a year behind bars.
She took it.
"My children say its not where you've been or what you've done mom, but where we go from here," Jewel said.
Now, life is different. Jewel works for the drug treatment court mentoring women just like her. She has her own organization--86meth dot org--trying to get meth out of the area. And she speaks to students in schools about prevention.
But perhaps the biggest change is with her children.
She's rebuilding relationships with her two oldest, and enjoying the little moments at home with Brandon and Kaley.
"I protect my recovery at all costs," she said. "My big thing was smoking meth on foil; that was my love, and today I don't even own a box of foil at my house."
If you'd like to learn more about the organization 86meth, click here.