State law enforcement officials say they want to expand a pilot program that helps kids who’re found in homes where adults are making meth. Assistant Iowa Attorney General Mary Chavez is leading what’s called the “Drug Endangered Children Program.” She says we’re experiencing “what is truly a rising problem, at alarming rates we’re seeing kids that’re affected and impacted adversely by drugs.” She says the program helps all agencies involved ensure that the children get help. She says law enforcement would rescue the kids and the Department of Human Services would take custody of the children. The kids are given a drug screen as evidence so the parents or guardians can be held accountable. Chavez says the children are given hope for escaping the drug environment. She says the approach also contemplates that the children will be put in a safe environments and they’ll get follow up medical and psychological assessments. Chavez says the program is a change in philosophy in dealing with these kids. She says it wasn’t that long ago that kids found at meth labs were considered a burden. She says those children are now considered victims. She says the kids are subject severe mistreatment,to shoddy living conditions, sexual abuse, profound neglect and a whole host of problems that come from living in a drug environment. Chavez says the first pilot programs were started in Dubuque, Appanoose and Polk Counties and one is starting in Ottumwa. She says they want to keep expanding the program statewide. She says their goal is to expand to nine or ten programs in the next year and then set yearly goals for expanding statewide. Chavez says they’ve gotten some federal funding to get the pilot projects going and hope to get more support as they expand.
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