Today Marks the Nation’s Fifth Drug Endangered Children Awareness Day

Attorney General Fox Encourages Montanans to Learn More about Risks Faced by Drug Endangered Children

Today marks the fifth annual National Drug Endangered Children (DEC) Awareness Day, and Attorney General Tim Fox encourages Montanans to learn more about the risks faced by drug endangered children.

“Too many of Montana’s children suffer abuse or neglect because the adults in their lives are involved with illegal drugs or substance abuse,” said Attorney General Tim Fox. “We all have a responsibility to identify drug endangered children and to help protect them.”

Drug endangered children are defined by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children as children who are at risk of suffering physical or emotional harm as a result of illegal drug use, possession, manufacturing, cultivation, or distribution. They may also be children whose caretaker’s substance misuse interferes with the caretaker’s ability to parent and provide a safe and nurturing environment. Today’s observation was started by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children to prevent and address the risks faced by these vulnerable children.

Nearly 2,200 children in Montana are currently in foster care.  Nearly 61% of their parents or other caregivers stated during the intake process that they have a substance abuse issue.  The top four drugs the caregivers disclosed were:  meth, alcohol, marijuana, and prescription drugs. In 2013, the Division of Criminal Investigation at the Montana Department of Justice investigated 16 drug endangered children cases, and 26 cases in 2014.

Montana has six National Children’s Alliance accredited Children’s Advocacy Centers (CAC), located in Butte, Helena, Kalispell, Missoula, Hamilton and Billings as well as a developing CAC in Cascade County.  These centers reported that in 2014, they served a total of 1,078 endangered children.  Of them, 795 were victims of sexual assault; 142 were victims of physical assault; 96 witnessed violence, and 45 were drug endangered.

Children of addicted parents have the highest risk to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors.  Children who live in homes where drugs are made are at risk of harm due to environmental hazards associated with drug labs, such as explosions, fires, harmful chemicals, and dirty surroundings.  Drug-endangered children are also at risk of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect