More Information about DEC

What is a Drug Endangered Child?

Drug endangered children (DEC) are those children who suffer physical or psychological harm or neglect resulting from exposure to illegal drugs or persons under the influence of illegal drugs, or exposure to dangerous environments where drugs are being manufactured or chemicals used to make drugs are accessible. These harms may include: injury from explosion, fire or exposure to toxic chemicals found at clandestine lab sites; physical abuse; sexual abuse; medical neglect and; lack of basic care including failure to provide meals, sanitary and safe living conditions or schooling. Drug endangered children are part of a very large population of children whose lives have been seriously and negatively impacted by dangerous drugs.

Why Should You Care?

Iowa's drug endangered children are often found to be living in deplorable conditions, neglected beyond imagination, and suffering at the hands of parents who use drugs. While Iowa professionals are coming together as teams to provide immediate intervention and follow-up care for these children, they cannot be solely responsible for the healthy and well-being of our children. It is up to all of us, professionals and citizens alike, to care for and protect our children.

Today, most drug endangered children are discovered or "rescued" during law enforcement actions relating to their parents or caregivers. That event may be one of the most defining moments of their lives. If ignored and left unmonitored, these children continue to be victims caught in a cycle of drug abuse.

By knowing the signs and being willing to take action, you can help interrupt this cycle.

This web site is designed to help you learn more about drug endangered children and how to help them.

Exposure to drugs of abuse poses multiple dangers, including but not limited to:
  • Injury or death from fire or explosions
  • Risk of poisoning and intoxication
  • Risk of acute health problems
  • Risk of long-term health outcomes
  • Developmental, emotional, mental health; or behavior problems
Drug Abuse is a Significant Threat to Iowa Children.

In 2005, the Iowa Department of Human Services confirmed 1,354 cases of child abuse involving an illegal drug being present in a child's body as a result of the actions of a parent or other caretaker. Over 6,000 cases of abuse involving drug-affected children (children testing positive for illegal drugs in their system) have been reported to the Iowa Department of Human Services in the last five years. While confirmed reports may include one or more of several illegal drugs, the drug most often found in a child's system was methamphetamine. Additionally, there were 128 cases in 2005 in which a parent or caretaker was involved in manufacturing methamphetamine in the presence of his or her child.

The impact of substance abuse causes untold risks to children and much of this impact goes undetected. Many of Iowa's drug endangered children fall into the category of denial of critical care and are never viewed as victims of drug-related child abuse. An August 2005 Department of Human Services (DHS) study assessed the impact of parental methamphetamine use or manufacturing on child protection cases in a 16-county service area in southwestern Iowa. The study, similar to one conducted in 2003, found that 49% of the child welfare cases of DHS workers in that area had a known "meth" factor - parents using, cooking, or selling. In this region of the state, there has been no decrease in the meth problem as it relates to children in the child welfare system; methamphetamine continues to have an impact on about half of all cases. Additionally, an evaluation of all Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases conducted by the Polk County Attorney's Office from June 2004 - January 2005 found that 80% involved parental/caregiver use of meth.

Parental substance use results in a lack of permanency for too many Iowa children.

Parental substance abuse has caused untold numbers of Iowa children to be removed from their families and be placed into the foster care system. Between Nov. 2003 and October 1, 2005 the Iowa Court of Appeals filed opinions in 158 cases in which children were before the Court due to the use of drugs by their parents. These 158 cases represent the fate of 303 Iowa children in proceedings upholding adjudications of Child in Need of Assistance and the Termination of Parental Rights. Substance abuse's tragic toll on the stability of children places the need for caretaker treatment at the top of state priorities.