The DEC Challenge
“Who Are Drug Endangered Children”
The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children defines drug endangered children as children who are at risk of suffering physical, mental or emotional harm as a result of parent or caregiver legal or illegal substance misuse. They may also be children whose caretaker’s legal or illegal substance use interferes with the caretaker’s ability to parent and provide a safe and nurturing environment.
Childwelfare.gov shares that nearly 9 million children live with at least one parent who has an SUD (substance use disorder), which is more than 12 percent of all children in the United States. Children living in environments where legal or illegal substance misuse is present are often subject to adverse childhood events such as physical, emotional, and psychological trauma (Barnard & McKeganey, 2004), putting them at risk for negative long-term challenges. They may be affected by prenatal drug exposure which, depending on the substance used, frequency, quantity and duration may lead to poor prenatal care, poor nutrition, prematurity or other developmental challenges. Children may also be affected by postnatal, adverse childhood experiences that could have long term consequences. It can be assumed that ALL drug endangered children are at risk, but at how much risk and risk for what varies (Drug Endangered Children: Risk Factors & Neuropsychological and Psychosocial Development, Dr. Kiti Freier-Randall).
The DEC challenge is identifying children affected by substance misuse environments as early as possible, intervening appropriately and providing services to the children and their family members. Children are often the first affected but can be the last recognized as being affected by substance misuse. National DEC teaches, trains and provides technical assistance support regarding the best practices for coordinating the various systems and professional disciplines able to intervene and provide services to these children and families in order to break the generational cycle of substance misuse.