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Drug Endangered Children

Safe home environments are critical for a child’s health.  Drug-endangered children are

  • those children who suffer harm, or are at risk of harm, as a result of illegal drug use, manufacturing, cultivation, or distribution
  • those children who are living with caretakers who are addicted to drugs or alcohol or who are experiencing serious substance abuse that interferes with their ability to parent and provide a safe and nurturing environment.

Growing up in a home where adult(s) have severe addiction or substance abuse problems can cause short- and long-term consequences for children. Children who live in homes where drugs are made are at risk of harm due to environmental hazards associated with drug labs (e.g., explosions, fires, harmful chemicals and precursor drugs, filthy homes, and lack of hygiene.) Drug-endangered children are also at risk of physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect; including failure to nurture, supervise, provide meals, and provide sanitary and safe living conditions, schooling, and medical care.

Children of addicted parents have the highest risk to become alcohol and drug abusers due to both genetic and family environment factors.

Children from families of addiction often live with a great deal of stress and unpredictability in their daily lives. They respond to their experiences in deeply personal ways. For example, they may

  • feel responsible for the parent¹s substance abuse and other problems in the family
  • equate parental substance use with not being loved
  • sometimes want their parent to use and feel angry with a non-using parent
  • fear that the addicted parent will get hurt or die
  • be embarrassed by the parent¹s behavior.

Below are some of the possible outcomes of drug-endangered children.  It is important to note, however, that these effects can be caused by other reasons than just substance abuse, and the presence of one or more of these concerns is not in itself sufficient reason to suspect substance abuse in the home.

  • Behavioral concerns include depression, anxiety, eating disorders, interpersonal problems, decreased attention and concentration, and difficult adjustment to change
  • Emotional concerns include attachment disorders, low self-esteem, mistrust/fear, and guilt/shame
  • Cognitive concerns include language delays/deficiencies, poor visual scanning/visual motor skills, working memory difficulties, decreased trial and error, and limited incidental learning
  • Psychosocial concerns include difficulty with relationships, personal characteristics that lead to negative situations, a history of negative life experiences, and problems related to drugs and/or alcohol and violence

Educational challenges for drug-endangered children may include learning disabilities, preoccupation, tiredness, poor school attendance, frequent change of schools, and retention in grade. These challenges may result in consequences such as truancy, delinquency, pregnancy, dropping out, expulsion, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

For more information on Drug Endangered Children and Substance Abuse issues:
The Florida Department of Children & Families, Office of Substance Abuse

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Admin., US DOHHS- Treatment Facility Locator

Florida Drug Endangered Children

National Drug Alliance for Drug Endangered Children