Drug Endangered Children in Indian Country
by John Vaudreuil, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Wisconsin
One of the component missions of the Native American Drug and Gang Initiative (NADGI) in Wisconsin has been a focus on training regarding drug endangered children (DEC). This focus has arisen because the drug threat on tribal lands is significant, and the most vulnerable victims are those children at risk of physical, sexual or emotional abuse, or neglect, as a result of their caregiver’s involvement in the drug culture. NADGI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin have made training of tribal law enforcement in this regard mandatory, and began “DEC in Indian Country” training sessions for relevant persons in the community.
The DEC in Indian Country training session contains two phases. The first phase educates members and professionals from the eleven tribes in Wisconsin regarding drug endangered children, specifically the short and long term physical and psychological effects that occur as a result of living in drug environments. The second phase of the training focuses on each tribe taking concrete steps to bring together various groups to address the problem of drug endangered children within their communities. This multi-disciplinary approach helps ensure swift identification of children living in dangerous drug environments and facilitates a seamless transition through various agency processes in dealing with the problem. To date, five tribes in Wisconsin (Oneida, St. Croix, Red Cliff, Mole Lake and Menominee) have established DEC programs.
Our office’s work with Native American communities to address drug endangered children has become a national model. We have presented our DEC in Indian Country training at conferences in Arizona, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Wyoming, and California, and at the national conference of the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Wisconsin received an Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) grant in 2007 to focus on methamphetamine and how this drug was affecting Wisconsin. We expanded the focus of the grant to tribal lands and other drugs affecting these communities. Today, our office is providing DEC training and advancing public awareness on prescription pills, inhalants, crack cocaine, heroin, alcohol as well as methamphetamine — all drugs that are plaguing tribal nations. In 2009, we obtained an additional grant through OVC to specifically address drug endangered children in Indian Country.