Just the other day while watching television I heard a man describing a trip to the grocery store with his three year old son. Upon approaching the store, he observed that attempting to allow his little boy to “make” the door open by stepping in front of it was ineffective. You see, he was too short for the sensor to recognize him and open the door for him.
I awoke this morning with this thought on my mind and how this relates to the children in drug homes and in the court system. We often speak about children who “fall through the cracks”. We must realize that we are the ones that are the professionals who enable the loopholes and cracks through which children fall. The best way to protect children is to investigate any situation from the perspective that they will be kept safe above all other things. Under no circumstances under which a child under ten should be left in a drug using environment. Period. Their bodies are exposed to drug smoke and residue and they are subjected to violence toward their mothers and fathers that is related to power-based violence and disputes related to dope money. The children test positive and are left with limited opportunity to see life through drug free eyes.
Older children—children over ten—should also not be left in a drug home under any circumstances due to the availability of drugs and the likelihood of forced participation in drug trafficking and manufacture of illicit substances. The number one risk factor for substance abuse is in fact availability. Children of addicts have seen substance use, they know the ins and outs of procuring drugs, and they have learned through observation that drugs equal money and a good time. This is not the message that children need to have ingrained into their minds. With every generation left to become the living dead because they grew up in a home and subculture infiltrated with drugs, we have lost access to at least three. If we are going to reclaim these lives, we must lower the sensor with which we view the children. We must get down to their level to see what they see and to smell what they smell. Even touch what they touch.
Children have become the new currency in the drug world. Their bodies are a commodity and we have a choice to help them through proven investigation techniques. Those who fight for a blind policy to keep children in homes even when substance abuse is present are ones who I encourage to go on a ride along with narcotics officers in their community. Many a young drug dealer has a hatred for police not because they were arrested, but because their childhood circumstances were seen by these men and women who left them there. An arrest happens and the parent is returned a couple of days later and the chaos continues. Many of these children cannot even tell what a good night of sleep is because there is so much chaos in the home or they fear their parent will die. By rescuing these children, removing them from a situation, and introducing them to a system of DEC-aware people within the school and community, you can plant a seed of hope in the life of this young child.
I implore each of us to lower the radar of our practice so that we see a situation from the eye level of a child. The door to a childs future will not be opened unless or until we do. The work in this field is not validated by the acclaim of many but by the difference made in a life of a child. An adult may share flattering words and tell you what you want to hear, but seeing a young adult who recognizes and remembers your intervention when they were a child is amazing.
Please, demand proper investigations by trained individuals and hold elected officials accountable to provide protection for children discovered living in drug homes.
Become an active participant in local foster care organizations by becoming a foster parent or helping recruit foster parents from within the community.
Finally, ask local law enforcement how they handle situations in which children are discovered during a drug investigation. If the answer is “call a social worker”, this is not enough. Ask if they have heard of “DEC investigation” and encourage them to contact www.ndec-tac.org to request first responder training.
We have an opportunity to reclaim our culture. Substance use may be prevalent, but it is not the norm. It is time to give children the voice their parents wish they had. Will you join us?
Holly Dye, Executive Director
National Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center, Incorporated
HQ Lexington, KY~ Regional Sites-Oklahoma City, OK and Oroville, CA