When law enforcement officers arrest adults for drug violations, they need to be keenly aware of what is happening to children in the home.
Collaboration is essential.
Those two points were repeatedly emphasized Monday during the opening day of a three-day joint conference put on by the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children and the Oklahoma Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Gov. Mary Fallin helped open the conference, which is being held at Oklahoma City's downtown Renaissance Hotel and Convention Center. The conference has attracted about 600 individuals including law enforcement officers, social workers, educators, medical professionals and speakers, officials said.
Fallin told participants she learned at an early age of the trauma that some children in this state experience because she grew up as the daughter of a child welfare worker.
“I can remember as a young girl my mother getting up in the middle of the night or on weekends and getting that phone call and saying, ‘There's a child in danger,'” Fallin said.
Fallin said her mother would go to pick that child up, and sometimes she would go with her.
Fallin said the memory of picking up children and dropping them off at shelters or foster homes has remained stuck in her mind as she has worked through policies, legislative sessions and budgets in her role as governor.
The governor and Darrell Weaver, director of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control, cited several things Oklahoma has done to help traumatized children and improve social services in recent years.
Accomplishments include collecting 21 tons of unwanted and outdated prescription drugs for proper disposal, becoming the first state to statutorily define drug endangered children, appropriating $16 million in new dollars to the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services to help with prescription drug counseling and prevention, and establishing drug courts, they said.
Weaver used the conference to announce his agency is in the process of launching two new programs — an Oklahoma drug endangered children website and a tracking system for drug endangered children.
The tracking system will involve law enforcement officers writing out narratives when children are found in homes where drug arrests are made, Weaver said. Those narratives immediately will be made available to Department of Human Services' child welfare workers so they can have insight into the trauma to which the children have been exposed and take appropriate action, he said.
The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs Control will start the program along with some pilot law enforcement agencies, with the goal of making it a statewide program, he said.