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.