The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Victim Witness Assistance Program (DEA-VWAP) was implemented as a result of victims' rights laws. These laws provide for fair and just treatment of crime victims, immediate emergency treatment, and referrals to appropriate child/adult service agencies. In addition, the Department of Justice provides guidance to federal law enforcement agencies through the Attorney General Guidelines for Victim Witness Assistance.
The DEA-VWAP: (1) manages the day to day operation of VWAP, case assistance, guidance and training to domestic and international offices; (2) collaborates with federal, state and local law enforcement ; (3) coordinates with national, state and local victim organizations; (4) provides awareness about child victims in drug environments and drug-related crime victimization.
There are 23 Victim Witness Coordinators (VWC) (collateral duty) in each DEA Field Division Office. In addition, there are Victim Witness Coordinators in District, Resident and Post of Duty Offices who support the Field Division VWC. The VWC assists crime victims identified in DEA investigations, coordinates with local prosecutors and, as appropriate, makes referrals to child/adult protective services and local victim service providers.
For additional information contact the
DEA Victim Witness Assistance Program
Toll free: 1-866-254-5970; E-mail: VWAP.DEA@usdoj.gov
Children exposed to drug environments may have cognitive, behavioral and social-emotional concerns; suffer from traumatic stress; and have medical problems.
Drug endangered children may be exposed to toxic chemicals; have access to weapons and reside in hazardous living conditions.
Children are one of the most vulnerable identified and reported victims in drug related crime investigations. These child victims are often referred to as Drug Endangered Children (DEC).
A drug endangered child is under the age of 18 years old and lives in or is exposed to an environment where illegal drugs are used, possessed, distributed, diverted, and/or manufactured. This includes the non-medical use of pharmaceutical drugs. The resulting harm to a child may be physical, sexual, emotional abuse and/or neglect; traumatic stress; exposure to drug paraphernalia, hazards, pornography; unfit living conditions; high risk behavior; exposure to domestic and/or community violence.
In addition, children are at risk of being forced to participate in illegal or sexual activity in exchange for drugs or money likely to be used to purchase drugs. (Deputy Attorney General Task Force on Drug Endangered Children, www.usdoj.gov).
Law enforcement may be the first on scene to identify a drug endangered child. However, the identification can be made by any of the professionals in the course of responding to related or unrelated matters. (See Child Victim Timeline).
A drug endangered child may:
• Be a victim of physical, sexual and/or emotional abuse and/or neglect;
• Not receive basic care including lack of food, sanitary and safe living conditions or schooling.
• Deficient in grooming, supervision and nurturing; have inappropriate sleeping conditions; and may require medical and/or dental treatment.
• Witness domestic or community violence.
• Have access to weapons.
• Test positive for an illegal drug caused by inhalation, needle sticks, ingestion, or passive smoke inhalation.
• May have increased risk of contamination; exposure to toxic chemicals, fire and explosions; and other hazardous living conditions especially in situations where methamphetamine, butane hash oil and other illegal drugs are manufactured.
Crime victims’ rights laws apply equally to child victims. When law enforcement identifies a child victim, they refer to local Child Protective Services professionals, Child Advocacy Centers (CAC), Multidisciplinary Response Teams and/or other professionals who provide a coordinated response focused on the child.
The multidisciplinary team approach involves local law enforcement, first responders, prosecutors, child protective services, medical and mental health professionals. The team may include other professionals identified in the community such as code enforcement, public health, educators, school nurses, school social workers and more.
A cooperative alliance is formed in the community where information is shared and there is case coordination. In some communities, a memorandum of understanding is initiated that supports the effort.
In having a coordinated response in place, a child identified in a drug environment is provided immediatly. During evidence collection, photographs are taken from the child's perspective, of illegal drugs and/or hazards. The report and photographs are given to the prosecutor for possible filing of charges of child endangerment, abuse or neglect.
The founder of the DEC response is Sue Webber Brown, a former Narcotics Detective and District Attorney Investigator, Butte County, California, and current Executive Director of the National Drug Endangered Child Training and Advocacy Center (NDEC-TAC).
After determining that children in drug environments were not receiving the services so desperately needed, Sue created the response and then worked with Mike Ramsey, District Attorney, Butte County, California, to develop the first DEC protocol.
Shortly thereafter, local DEC programs were created in communities all over the country, and in 2003, a national DEC program was established. Since that time, the movement to identify and aid drug endangered children has expanded in scope and impact to include partners on the federal, state, tribal and local levels recognizing the problem and implementing intervention strategies.
For additional information, go to the DEA Museum Lecture Series, May 24, 2011, Drug Endangered Children Awareness Day, Also, see The White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Endangered Children.
Substance abuse is one of the top two problems exhibited by families in 81% of reported cases of child abuse and neglect. Children of substance abusing parents are three times more likely to be abused and four times more likely to be neglected. (www.casacolumbia.org)
Children who have been sexually abused are 3.8 times more likely to develop drug addiction; nearly 2/3 of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused as children. (www.childhelp.org)
Based on the data from the period 2002 to 2007, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported that 8.3 million children under 18 years of age lived with at least one substance dependent or substance-abusing parent. Of these children, approximately 7.3 million lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused alcohol, and about 2.2 million lived with a parent who was dependent on or abused illicit drugs. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parentalsubabuse.pdf.
According to data in the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS), parental substance abuse is frequently reported as a reason for removal, particularly in combination with neglect. For almost 31 percent of all children placed in foster care in 2012, parental alcohol or drug use was the documented reason for removal, and in several States Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System that percentage surpassed 60 percent (National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, 2012). https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parentalsubabuse.pdf#page=3&view=The impact of parental substance use on children
For more than 400,000 infants each year (about 10 percent of all births), substance exposure begins prenatally. State and local surveys have documented prenatal substance use as high as 30 percent in some populations. Based on NSDUH data from 2011 and 2012, approximately 5.9 percent of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 were current illicit drug users. Younger pregnant women generally reported the greatest substance use, with rates approaching 18.3 percent among 15- to 17-year-olds. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parentalsubabuse.pdf
Under Title 18, U.S.C., Section 3771(a), a crime victim has the following rights:
A crime victim may at any time seek the advice of a private attorney concerning these rights at your own expense and discretion. A crime victim may file a complaint against any employee of the Department of Justice who violated or failed to provide the rights established under the Crime Victims’ Rights Act of 2004, 18 U.S.C. Section 3771.
The Department of Justice has established the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman to receive and investigate complaints filed by crime victims against its employees, and has implemented Procedures to Promote Compliance with Crime Victims’ Rights Obligations, 28 C.F.R. Section 45.10.
Office of the Victims’ Rights; Victims’ Rights Ombudsman; Department of Justice, EOUSA, RFK Main Justice Building; 950 Pennsylvania, Ave., N.W., Room 2261; Washington, D.C. 20530-0001; website https://www.justice.gov/usao/resources/crime-victims-rights-ombudsman
National Center for Victims of Crime (website)
VictimConnect Resource Center
StopBullying.gov (www.stopbullying.gov )
Security on Campus, Inc. (website)
Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (website)
Toll Free: 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)
Children and Family Futures, www.cffutures.com
Drug Endangered Children Training and Advocacy Center (DEC-TAC) (website)
National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (NADEC) (website)
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) (website)
Toll Free: 1-800-843-5678
National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, https://ncsacw.samhsa.gov/
National Child Advocacy Center (website)
Telephone: 256-533-KIDS (5437)
National Children’s Alliance, www.nationalchildrensalliance.org
National Child Traumatic Stress Network, www.nctsn.org
National Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children (website)
National Organization of Parents of Murdered Children, Inc. (website)
Toll Free: 1-888-818-POMC
Safeguarding Children of Arrested Parents, http://www.iacp.org/CAP
U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services, Child Welfare Information Gateway (website)
The White House, Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), Drug Endangered Children (website)
West Virginia Center for Children’s Justice – Handle With Care: http://www.handlewithcarewv.org/handle-with-care.php
Dating Violence: www.loveisrespect.org
National Domestic Violence Hotline (website)
Toll Free: 1-800-799-SAFE (1-800-799-7233); 1-800-787-3224 (TTY)
National Teen Dating Violence Hotline (website)
Toll Free: 1-866-331-9474; 1-866-331-8453 (TTY)
National Center on Elder Abuse, Administration on Aging (website)
Toll Free: 1-800-677-1116
Blue Campaign, U.S. Department of Homeland Security: www.dhs.gov/BlueCampaign
Global Center for Women and Justice: http://www.vanguard.edu/gcwj/
National Human Trafficking Resource Center: http://traffickingresourcecenter.org/
Toll Free Hotline: 1-888-373-7888
THEFT & CYBERCRIMES:
Federal Trade Commission:
Deter, Detect, and Defend Against Identity Theft ( website)
Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Hotline: Toll Free: 1-877-ID-THEFT
National Cyber Security Alliance (website)
International Terrorism Victim Expense Reimbursement Program (website)
U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Citizens Services, Victims of Crime: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/emergencies/victims.html
RAPE & SEXUAL
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN) (website)
Toll Free: 1-800-656-HOPE (1-800-656-4673)
National Sexual Assault Online Hotline: https://ohl.rainn.org/online/
Jane Doe No More (website)
National Sexual Violence Resource Center, www.nsvrc.org
Not Alone, www.notalone.gov
National Crime Victim Helpline, Stalking Resource Center (website):
VictimConnect Resource Center
Phone & Text Helpline: 1-855-4-VICTIM (1-855-484-2846)
For additional information contact the DEA Victim Witness Assistance Program
Toll free: 1-866-254-5970; E-mail: VWAP.DEA@usdoj.gov