A hotline call to the Franklin county Division of Family Services last week led to the arrest of two people and the seizure of methamphetamine and meth lab components in a home west of St. Clair.
The call also may have saved the lives of two children, ages 8 and 9, who were living in the home where the meth was being cooked.
Living in a home where meth is being cooked is inherently dangerous, but clandestine meth labs pose the greatest risk to children.
Children living in homes with meth labs are exposed to the highest levels of chemicals. They are at risk of explosion, fire, chemical burns, and are often neglected and abused by drug-using parents.
Studies in Washington, Iowa and California show that childhood exposure to toxic meth lab chemicals can result in damage to kidneys, liver or spleen, and may lead to violent behavior.
Drug-addicted parents are typically neglectful parents. They expose their children to the drug culture and an often chaotic lifestyle that may include firearms, finished drugs and unsanitary conditions.
In the case last week, the parents were taken to jail and the children were taken to protective custody — an all too familiar occurrence for the Franklin County Narcotics Unit. But as difficult as that is for all involved, the kids were removed, at least temporarily, from a dangerous environment.
And it wouldn’t have happened if the person would not have placed the call to the hotline. That took some guts. It’s not easy for people to report abuse or neglect or drug use. Many people have suspicions or even first-hand knowledge of abuse and neglect and stay silent.
They don’t want to get involved in other people’s business especially when it deals with parents and law enforcement. They think if they get involved they will only make matters worse or there could be retaliation. Some view it as a privacy issue. What other people do is up to them.
But when children are involved, the best course is always to report suspected abuse, neglect or drug use.
Child advocacy experts stress that observations and suspicious can be the key to saving a child’s life.
It may not be easy, but when children are involved, picking up the phone is always the right move.