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Drug Use And Neglect: What Safe Adults Can Do

A 29-year-old Iowa father is charged with murder and child endangerment.

The father called 911 to report that his baby was dead. When the nurse/EMT arrived at the residence, she found the dead infant in a baby swing.

The nurse said the father did not show any emotion when he led her to the dark, hot bedroom where she found the baby's body. She said the baby's "eyes were open, and it was a blank stare." When she touched the baby's chest, the infant's clothing was crusty. When she moved his blanket, gnats flew up.

According to the Assistant Iowa Attorney General, the four-month-old "had been in the same diaper for nine to 14 days when his body was found in the swing." He said the baby's heavily soiled diaper had attracted bugs. He added that the infant died of diaper rash that led to ruptured skin where E.coli bacteria set in.

A coroner's report showed the baby died of malnutrition, dehydration, and the infection.

The father had money to buy food and baby supplies in the apartment. He was a drug user. "Baby Found Dead in Swing 'Died of Diaper Rash,' Prosecutor Says in Father's Trial" www.nbclosangeles.com (Nov. 01, 2018).

Commentary and Checklist

Child neglect is one form of child maltreatment. Child neglect, as defined by the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation.”

Nearly every state provides its own definition of neglect.

Neglect is often defined as the failure of a person responsible for a child to provide needed food, clothing, shelter, medical care, or supervision to the degree that the child’s health, safety, or well-being are threatened with harm.

In 2015, more than a half million children were neglected, according to government experts. Neglect was either the sole cause of, or one of the contributors to, nearly 73 percent of the 1,670 deaths related to child maltreatment in 2015.

In this case, the parent clearly neglected the child by failing to keep him healthy by providing basic care like changing a diaper; caring for a diaper rash; and treating the baby for an illness.

The father was a drug user according to the report. The use of illegal drugs or the abuse legal drugs is a common factor in child neglect. Caretakers are either too incapacitated to take care of children or so consumed by drugs or the desire for drugs that the children under their care are criminally neglected.

Drugs are also often involved in child sexual abuse because sometimes, children are sexually-exploited as a way of obtaining drugs.

Here are some child neglect prevention steps for safe adults:

  • Learn about neglect and its signs.
  • Participate in community awareness programs.
  • Parents and caregivers can participate in parenting classes and programs that teach coping skills, conflict and anger management, and financial management.
  • If a child tells something about his or her neglect, believe what the child says. Respond with care, calm, supportiveness, and urgency.
  • Report child neglect to your state's child protection agency or the police.
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