Save children from drug dens

An editorial from The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

WHEELING, W.Va. — Sooner or later, a child in West Virginia is going to swallow a fatal overdose of heroin, die in a meth lab fire or be beaten to death by a drug-crazed adult. It will happen unless more is done to protect children from adults to whom getting high is more important than being mothers and fathers.

Nothing like the horror that occurred this spring in Charleston has happened in our area, to our knowledge. There, in May, a 1-year-old boy – a baby – was beaten severely and bitten repeatedly in the house where six adults, including his mother, were getting high on meth. Police rescued the child, who will recover from his physical injuries.

But the potential for serious harm to come to a local child is enormous.

Just last week, Moundsville police rescued two children from an alleged drug den occupied by their mother. Officers reported finding marijuana, pills and two illegal guns in the home. Child Protective Services workers removed the children.

Someone in authority had to have suspected the children might be in danger, however. Despite the fact their mother previously had been charged with child abuse, displaying obscene material to a child and providing alcohol to a minor, the youngsters still were with the woman.

Charges are not convictions, of course, and taking away the children of a parent merely accused of crimes seldom is appropriate. Again, however, this woman was charged with child abuse.

Police in our area frequently call social service agencies to take custody of children found in the dangerous surroundings of drug dens. In both West Virginia and Ohio, social service officials should be asking themselves whether little ones should be removed from such homes prior to that happening.

Again, taking a child away from his or her parents is a drastic action, rightly reserved only for situations in which clear and present danger exists.

But sometimes, it does before social service agencies act. In both our states, public officials, including legislators if necessary, need to face up to the reality that traditional concepts of parental rights may have gone up in marijuana smoke during the current drug abuse crisis.

Officials should be thinking about a comment police Lt. Steve Kosek made after the children were rescued last week in Moundsville: “We’re seeing more and more of these cases every day.”

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