Comments Off on Children and Methamphetamine: A story of an innocent victim in Washington County

BRISTOL, Va. – Abingdon and Bristol, Virginia police along with the D.E.A. and the Washington County, Virginia Sheriff’s Office arrested two people operating a meth lab at an apartment complex in the 700 block of Oakview Avenue Wednesday night.

In that apartment, police found this child playing in the middle of those dangerous gases and chemicals. Captain Maynard Ratcliff tells us the toddler couldn’t have been more than three years old.

The discovery of meth labs are an all too frequent occurrence in our area. Sometimes there are so many arrests by local law enforcement,  we can’t report them all. Sometimes the manufacture of meth endangers the lives of the innocent, of children like the one found at the scene of a meth arrest in Bristol, Virginia Wednesday night. News 5 dug deeper to show us what happens to children who are exposed to meth and what the future may hold for them.

“Children cannot vocalize some of the symptoms or hazards they’ve been exposed to.”

Bristol, Virginia Officer Patrick Manning says responding to a scene where children have been exposed to methamphetamine is a dangerous and delicate situation. “We do take toys, coloring books, as a tool to present a softer side or more approachable side.”

That’s a side that helped one child feel safe when she was taken from an apartment in Bristol, Virginia Wednesday night. Police and Drug Enforcement Agents found an active meth lab at that home.

“It’s everything included. It’s the people they’ve been around, the places they’ve gone, the love and the care these children are not getting because of the people that are in charge of their day-to-day, their focus is on something other than those children,” Manning said.

Manning is often first on the scene where meth is being manufactured. He said anytime someone is exposed to the drug, it’s dangerous. For children, the health concerns multiply.

“The heavy gases lay low to the ground because they are toxic they will irritate the skin, so when you have an infant who’s crawling, you’ll find the irritation on the palms, knees, sometimes in the belly or chin as they crawl across the rug, they’ll expose themselves to those toxins,” Manning said.

In Virginia, a child is considered to be abused if they are exposed to a home where drugs are being sold or manufactured. That is when the Department of Social Services steps in.

“First line of response you can expect is a change of clothes. Children’s services will respond and provide the child with new clothes to dress into they know are free and clean from any kind of foreign contaminants,” Manning said.

We learned from a DSS spokesperson that the agency cooperates with police in their investigation to determine the safest place to live for a child exposed to meth. Over the next few days, a determination will be made to send this toddler to a foster home, to live with another family member, or even be returned to the original parents or guardians.

In this case, the police charged the man and woman overseeing the child with reckless disregard for human life. Only doctors, law enforcement, and child protective service workers can take those children out of a home on an emergency protective order. From that point on, placement is on a case-by-case basis.

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