The U.S. Department of Justice established the Federal Interagency Task Force on Drug Endangered Children (DEC) in response to the Administration’s 2010 National Drug Control Strategy. The DEC Task Force is committed to identifying ways to better serve and protect drug endangered children by building partnerships on the federal, state, tribal, and local levels. The task force is chaired by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. The Office of National Drug Control Policy and the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Education, Homeland Security, Transportation, and Interior are active participants.
The task force defines a drug endangered child as a person under the age of 18 who lives in or is exposed to an environment where drugs, including pharmaceuticals, are present for any number of reasons, including trafficking and manufacturing of these drugs. As a result of such exposure, these children experience or are at high risk of experiencing physical, sexual, or emotional abuse; harm; or neglect. Tragically, these children also are at risk of being forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or money likely to be used to purchase drugs.
The DEC movement was initiated over the last decade to respond to the growing phenomenon of finding children during drug arrests, particularly in methamphetamine labs located in homes and other areas where children were living or playing. In 2003 alone, approximately 3,300 children were found in the 8,000 meth labs that were raided. The children found in these situations are often severely harmed or neglected and, in many instances, tested positive for drugs. Local DEC programs have been created all over the country, and as a result, thousands of children have been rescued from drug environments. Our task force wants to share the promising practices that have been helping communities better protect these children.