A few weeks ago you printed an article from The Examiner in your editorial space entitled "Battle Against Meth Needs Many Tactics." The article specifically stated ... "One suggested change is defining the presence of the drug in a house where there are children as an "element" of child abuse or neglect. That idea makes sense."
That idea makes sense when any illegal drugs are in the same home as children, not just meth! The pharmaceutical industry has complied with social and regulatory requirements in providing childproof lids for all oral medications in an effort to prevent accidental ingestion by a child.
If marijuana is found in a home, who is to determine that it was not smoked at some point in the home and the child was exposed to the second-hand smoke even though the child may not have been in the same room? If drug paraphernalia is discovered along with the illegal drugs, residue is present, it should only be suspected that the drugs were abused in the home.
The SEMO Drug Task Force has explained that the state of Missouri will not charge, nor prosecute for child endangerment when an arrest is made for illegal drugs and/or paraphernalia in the same home as a child, unless it is meth. It was offered that if the child was known to have ingested the oral drugs, been in the same room while drug use was occurring (with proof), or illegal drugs were knowingly shared with the child, then an investigation would be conducted.
The Child Abuse Hotline will not make a report regarding child endangerment due to the presence of illegal drugs unless methamphetamine is the drug discovered in the home where a child is present.
I fully agree with the dangers of meth and don't discredit the seriousness of this problem at all. However, it is not the only evil lurking in our society to which our children may be exposed. All illegal drug use and possession is just that - illegal. If children reside in the same home as a person arrested for such at the home, then child endangerment should be an automatic charge.
Children are curious and if illegal drugs are accessible, they can easily be mistaken for candy and eaten. Then, if it is not too late for the child's well-
being, I suppose the law would dictate an investigation to be conducted. If a child would die, there would certainly be a coroner's investigation - but what does that accomplish? It is too late for the child.
As a mother and grandmother, I cannot imagine allowing myself, my children, nor my grandchildren to be exposed to such a dangerous situation in my home. We have to specifically request non-childproof caps for medications. Most of us utilize cabinet locks to protect children from dangerous cleaning chemicals and prescription medicines in our home.
If a child is treated in the emergency room for drug/chemical ingestion, Poison Control would be contacted. Since nurses are mandated reporters, the incident would be reported to Social Services with a resulting investigation. If the child's environment was determined to be safe and the occurrence was strictly an accident and not negligence, at a minimum, education would be provided to the caretakers to prevent future mishaps. If negligence is a factor, certainly further action would be taken to protect the child.
Bottom line, children are a precious gift to us. Illegal is illegal. Until our lawmakers enact appropriate legislation to deal with all offenders of the law, our children are at risk. It is not the hotline's or the drug task force's fault. Their hands are tied until the State recognizes and prosecutes drug offenses against children and our society. If our society were not so lenient with criminals; reducing charges, sentences, et. - we would not have near as many criminals.
Most of us learned at an early age that the bathtub water could be just as dangerous as the swimming pool - accidental drowning is a definite risk for children. Do our lawmakers need to be reminded of this basic example to recognize that illegal drugs are illegal drugs - possible overdose with injury or even death is a definite risk for anyone, but especially curious children?
Name withheld by request