Group to help child victims
Drug Endangered Children Task Force aims to ease transitions
A program to help children who have been found in houses that harbor drug labs would have come in handy during an incident in Craig a couple of years ago, said Sgt. Bill Leonard of the Craig Police Department.
At that time, officials didn’t have a detailed plan for taking care of children who were victims of drug use.
“We had to scramble to get things together for them,” Leonard said, recalling the incident in which police recovered children from a home where they suspected heavy drug use had occurred.
Currently, people who are found in homes that harbor methamphetamine labs or that may be contaminated by heavy drug use will undergo an onsite decontamination process.
Clothes and other personal belongings may be destroyed because they contain toxic levels of chemicals. But, this scenario can be tragic for children who become attached to toys and their things.
To reduce the distress of these situations, a recently formed group called the Drug Endangered Children Task Force has prepared about 20 backpacks filled with age-specific toys and essentials to help a child transition into a new life.
“The purpose of the backpacks is to make it a little less traumatic,” Leonard said. “They’re probably not going to have their toys or their things. It’s to kind of give them a new start.”
The task force has established a multiagency plan to deal with situations in which children have to be removed from a home.
It includes representatives from mental health, the medical community, law enforcement, the judicial system, Moffat County Schools and Social Services. Protocols soon to be adopted by the task force should serve as a road map for agencies to follow in the case of a drug bust that involves children.
Having a plan in place can make the process of transitioning children into a new home and the conviction of drug offenders go more smoothly, said Shannon Samuelson, a task force representative for the schools.
“It’s nice to have all agencies working together, instead of all working alone,” she said. “It’s getting all the agencies on the same page.”
Samuelson said that while working as a counselor in the school district, she sometimes suspects that children may live in homes where drugs are present. It’s an increase in education and awareness about drug use that got her involved in the program.
“There’s a lot of research that shows drugs’ effects on children,” she said. “Now I hope there are laws that will help kids. That’s my big hope that that will happen.”
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