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Keeping Them Safe: The Task Force on Drug Endangered Children

In May of this year an interagency task force was formed at the Department of Justice to help protect drug endangered children. A drug endangered child is a young 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 that exposure, these children experience or are at high risk of experiencing physical, sexual or emotional abuse, harm or neglect. Tragically, these children also experience or are at risk of being forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or in exchange for money likely to be used to purchase drugs. Originally stemming from the methamphetamine crisis, this movement was initiated within the last decade to respond to the growing phenomenon of finding children in meth labs’ homes and other areas where they were living or playing. In 2003 alone, 3,300 children were found in the 8,000 methamphetamine labs that were raided. These children had often been severely harmed or neglected, and tested positive in many instances for drugs. Since that time, the movement to identify and aid these children has expanded in scope and impact to include partners on the federal, state, and local levels and to protect children endangered by various types of drugs. On a recent conference call, Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary G. Grindler, who leads the Task Force on behalf of the Justice Department, spoke with national advocacy groups, community leaders, tribal representatives, and law enforcement officials who specialize in drug endangered children issues. Grindler reviewed the Task Force’s intentions, including compiling a comprehensive guide to the variety of ongoing efforts across the country. Gathering this information will allow the Task Force to identify best practices for keeping these children safe. It will also reveal where there are gaps that need to be filled. The Task Force has also reviewed the full scope of legislative definitions and associated criminal statutes that relate to drug endangered children and hopes to make recommendations on model laws by that have been effective in different states. The Task Force is also focused on gathering education resources and intends to produce materials that can be used by federal, state and local law enforcement and children’s advocates nationwide. The Task Force will create online resources that will be available to the general public. Training is a core component of the Task Force mission. In addition to offering training to law enforcement at the federal, state and local level the Task Force is working with state, local and non-profit partners to determine the most effective means to incorporate drug endangered children training into their existing curriculums. Children everywhere must be protected. By identifying this problem and working together to solve it at the federal level and with our state, local and tribal partners, we can ensure that we put an end to this viscous cycle and protect this especially vulnerable population.
Updated April 7, 2017