Family Court Hopes to End Cycle of Drug Addiction - 8 News NOW

Family Court Hopes to End Cycle of Drug Addiction

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LAS VEGAS -- Parents getting high and leaving their children to suffer.

Right now, family court judges are seeing more drug-addicted parents flooding the system. The problem is so bad kids taken away from their families years ago are now showing up again, to watch child services take away their children.

Judges say this is a cycle they are seeing repeated over and over, all because of drugs. They say it is impacting thousands of children.

Right now, there are 3,700 kids in the system here in Clark County. Of those kids, about 80 percent were taken from their parents because of neglect and in the majority of those cases the neglect stems from drug use.

Michelle Bortle has spent the last year getting clean after sinking into a methamphetamine addiction.

"It just takes over. You start off little, and then, before you know it, you've lost everything," Bortle said.

Clark County workers took all four of her kids into protective custody when a relative filed a report with social services, alleging neglect.

"I was moving too much. The kids were missing school and the drug use," Bortle said.

Bortle is no stranger to the system and is the example of a bigger problem. Child Protective Services took Bortle from her mother when she was just 2 years old.

Now, she still remembers her heroin-addicted mother's damaging words.

"I'm never going to be anything that she wishes I was never born. She tries to kill herself because of me," Bortle remembers her mother saying.

Clark County Family Court Judge Frank Sullivan has been working with Clark County courts since 1999.

"The parent knows they shouldn't leave the young children unsupervised, but they're out getting high. They're doing drugs, and they aren't able to care for the child," Judge Sullivan said.

Judge Sullivan has seen the cycle of neglect and drugs repeat over and over, even within his own courtroom.

"We're also seeing it historically from generation to generation. Where that child may have come into the system, needing protection because their parent who was doing drugs. Now those children are adults, and now their children are in the system for the same kind of problem: drugs or domestic violence. Those are the two things that seem to go generational," Judge Sullivan said.

Bortle has been reunited with her children, and she is hopeful her kids won't suffer the same drug-addicted fate.

Bortle has now graduated rehabilitation and court-mandated parenting classes. She hopes to be a mentor to others struggling.

It is not easy to get clean or stay clean. To help, the Clark County Family Court is trying to start a parent mentoring program to help drug-addicted parents navigate the system.

There is no formal start date yet, but they hope to have it up and running within the next year.

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