Drug slogans are meaningless when children learn substance abuse at home, young people told a pair of House panels.
"There's a lot more than `Just Say No!' " said Serena Peterson, 17, of Newark, Ohio, who described herself as a recovered alcoholic and drug user who learned substance abuse from her parents."If I asked for a beer, I got it," she said.
She and others spoke Tuesday before a joint meeting of the House Budget Committee Task Force on Human Resources and the Select Committee on Children, Youth and Families.
Also appearing were educators, doctors and children's rights advocates who discussed ways to make the budget responsive to children's needs. But the young people stole the show.
Keisha Stith, 16, of the Bronx, N.Y., said she "wasn't even a teen yet" when she became pregnant. The mother of a 3 1/2-year-old son, Kevin, said ignorance was to blame.
"This education has to start from the lower grades," she said.
The youngsters also said drug education needed to begin earlier.
"When signs are put in front of schools warning that this is a drug-free zone, the situation has already gone too far," said Freida Dyson, 17, of Harrisburg, Pa., one of three dozen children invited to Washington to take part in National Children's Day observances Sunday.
"We have to have older students reaching the younger students," said Susan Schneller, an 11th-grader from Lawrenceville, N.J. She said stress is the reason for drug abuse, sexual experimentation and suicide among teens.
"Before they go out and deal with early sex or with drugs, they have to be able to deal with these pressures."
Marie Vollestedt, 16, of Bend, Ore., said she started a support group for children from foster homes after family abuse forced her into such a home.
"All of us need a stable environment," she said. "Foster children need this even more. In the eyes of many foster children, the world is full of pain."