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Breaking the cycle of drugs in families

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Modified: August 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm •  Published: August 15, 2013

A child walks into a classroom, puts his head down on the desk and goes to sleep.

On the outside, it might look like the child is bored or doesn't care.

But this child could be one of hundreds in Oklahoma who are considered “drug-endangered children,” growing up in homes where parents or guardians are exposing them to illegal drugs and the lifestyle that can sometimes accompany addiction and drug trafficking.

Dub Turner, education program director at the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics, explained to a group of child welfare workers, law enforcement officers and other child advocates that school might be the only place where this child gets a stable meal.

“And No. 2, that's the only peace and quiet they're going to get,” Turner said.

On Thursday, Turner and other experts spent the day in Norman discussing how law enforcement and child welfare workers can better serve these children.

Child welfare workers from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services were among some of the people in the class, one group that sometimes encounters drug-endangered children.

Out of almost 30,000 investigations that DHS conducted in 2011, 34 percent, or one-third, were children who were removed from homes that had alcohol and or drugs as a condition of removal, according to data provided at the training.

Oklahoma law defines a drug-endangered child as a child “at risk of suffering physical, psychological or sexual harm as a result of the use, possession, distribution, manufacture or cultivation of controlled substances” by a parent or guardian. Under law, this term includes newborns who test positive for drugs — whether illegal drugs or prescription drugs the mother wasn't prescribed.

Turner said that after almost 40 years in law enforcement, he has come to realize the responsibility officers have in protecting drug-endangered children.

In 1995, Turner attended a law enforcement conference in San Francisco and heard a presentation by Sue Webber-Brown, who was one of the first people to lead an awareness effort about drug-endangered children.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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