Unfortunately, many people who choose to use drugs are also parents and guardians of young children. This can cause a host of problems which are unique to that household. Substance abuse and dependence causes a lot of damage not only to individuals, economies, and government services but also to loved ones, including children. An intoxicated adult caring for a child can be a serious hazard. That’s why there are laws that charge adults with a variety of child abuse or child neglect crimes if the adult is found to be using drugs or abusing alcohol.
The Child Welfare Information Gateway posted a Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse report in their laws and policies section. The report indentified 47 states, the District of Columbia, and some U.S. territories as places where a person can be charged with abuse and neglect if found under the influence with a child in their care. The report also cited specific actions which would constitute a crime in most states. This includes the manufacturing of a controlled substance in the presence of a child or on a premise occupied by a child. It also includes selling, distributing, or giving drugs and/or alcohol to a child, using a controlled substance that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for a child, and even exposing children to the possession of illegal drugs. These issues are mostly considered as a crime, depending upon the state’s specific laws.
There are a large number of children who are being abused and neglected in the U.S. and there are a significant number of those children who live with a parent or guardian who are neglected and abused as a result of their parent’s or guardian’s dependence on drugs and alcohol. The Child Welfare website of the Administration for Children & Families which is part of the U.S. department of Health & Human Services published a report titled Protecting Children in Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders. This report provided some troubling statistics about children under the care of people who use drugs and abuse alcohol. The National Survey on Drug Use and Health reported in 2007 there were over 8 million children that lived with at least one parent who abused or was dependent on illicit drugs or alcohol the previous year. 13.9 % were children under 2, 13.6% were 3 to 5 years old, 12% were 6 to 11 years old and 9.9% were 12 to 17 years old. These are some of the troubling statistics that emerge from a number of different surveys and studies on parents and guardians who abuse drugs.
Often times people who are abusing illicit drugs and/or alcohol can hide both their substance abuse and the consequent neglect to their child. Unfortunately, even some pregnant women take illicit drugs and drink alcohol throughout their pregnancies. The 2009 Protecting Children in Families Affected by Substance Use Disorders report cited another survey which found an average of 5.2% of pregnant women from 15 to 44 years old used illicit drugs within 30 days of being surveyed and 11.6% consumed alcohol. The survey used various data sources to estimate that between 500,000 to 750,000 children are born with prenatal exposure to drugs and alcohol.
These laws are meant to protect children in the event their caregiver is too intoxicated to make proper decisions. However, the only way these children can get help is when other people notice that they’re being abused. If no one steps up to help these children, then we will only see more and more abused kids. If you suspect child abuse and you live in the state of Florida, please call 800-962-2873. You can also check out this website to find a number to call to report suspected child abuse in your state. If we all do our part to report suspicious activity, then maybe we can work together to keep more children safe from harm.