Children Exposed to Drugs

Children Exposed to Drugs in the United States

Children exposed to Illegal drug activity: How Children are Affected by Drug Addicted Parents

There is increasing concern about the negative effects on children when parents or other members of their households abuse alcohol or drugs or engage in other illegal drug-related activity, such as the manufacture of methamphetamines in home-based laboratories. Many
States have responded to this problem by expanding the civil definition of child abuse or neglect to include this concern.

Specific circumstances that are considered child abuse or neglect in some States include:

  • Manufacturing a controlled substance in the presence of a child or on premises occupied by a child (in 11 States (Alabama, Colorado, Indiana, Iowa, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin) and the District of Columbia).
  • Exposing a child to, or allowing a child to be present where, chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of controlled substances are used or stored (in 8 States: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, and Oregon).
  • Selling, distributing, or giving drugs or alcohol to a child (in 7 States (Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas) and Guam).
  • Using a controlled substance that impairs the caregiver’s ability to adequately care for the child (in 11 States: California, Delaware, Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, and West Virginia).
  • Exposing a child to the criminal sale or distribution of drugs (Montana, South Dakota, and the District of Columbia).

Parental Drug Use as Child Abuse

Approximately 34 States and the U.S. Virgin Islands address in their criminal statutes the issue of exposing children to illegal drug activity (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana,
Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming currently address the issue in their criminal statutes).

For example, in 20 States the manufacture or possession of methamphetamine in the presence of a child is a felony (Arkansas, California, Colorado, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky,
Louisiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming), while in 10 States, the manufacture or possession of any controlled substance in the presence of a child is considered a felony (Alabama, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Mexico, Ohio, and Oregon).

Nine States have enacted enhanced penalties for any conviction for the manufacture of methamphetamine when a child was on the premises where the crime occurred (Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and Washington). (1)



1. Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Parental drug use as child abuse. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.

Children Exposed to Drugs: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Children Exposed to Drugs. This part provides references, in relation to Children Exposed to Drugs, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Children Exposed to Drugs by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Children Exposed to Drugs and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Children Exposed to Drugs or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Children Exposed to Drugs and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Children Exposed to Drugs. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Children Exposed to Drugs should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Children Exposed to Drugs when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

*This resource guide is updated frequently. However, if you notice something is wrong or not working, or any resources that should be added, please notify us in any of the "Leave a Comment" area.

Leave a Comment