As part of one of our many projects, Gordonsville High School FCCLA is reminding Smith County of an occurring problem in Tennessee, child abuse and how it is related to another growing problem in our area, drug abuse. We hope to inform and educate members of our community so they can be aware, know the signs, report concerns, and possibly prevent child abuse altogether. 

Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect related to drug abuse. Every year, more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies, which involve more than 6.6 million children. Around 80% of these cases involve the parents addicted to, or abusing drugs. 

The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average between 4-7 children every day to child abuse and neglect. More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were two years of age or younger, with more than 80% not even being old enough for kindergarten.

What are the Types of Child Abuse? 

  • Neglect is the failure of the child’s caretaker to provide adequate care for the child.
  • Physical abuse involves a caretaker inflicting physical injury on a child through assault.
  • Emotional abuse involves statements by a caretaker that can injure a child’s sense of self-esteem.
  • Sexual abuse involves exposing the child to inappropriate sexual content, behavior, or contact.

Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children. And 4% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the United States were abused as children.

Mental Health Disorders, Addictions, & Related Issues

  • Risk for intimate partner violence
  • Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
  • Illicit drug abuse
  • Smoking & Drinking at an early age
  • Depression
  • Suicide attempts

Substance abuse and child maltreatment are tragically and undeniably linked. To be more localized, the opioid epidemic in Tennessee has caused a significant increase in the number of children entering the DCS system and having parental rights terminated. 

The state of Tennessee has the 2nd highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation.

Specifically, in middle Tennessee: 

  • 80% of child abuse cases are related to drugs.
  • Meth is the #1 drug involved, with Opioids being a close second. 
  • Within our judicial district, over 20 children test positive for drugs yearly.
  • Within our county in 2018, there were 63 cases of child abuse and neglect involving drugs.
  • Most child abuse cases involving drugs are related specifically to meth.

To combat this rapidly growing crime, our FCCLA chapter has raised money with the help of our local churches. These proceeds will be used to buy personal hygiene products for children in Smith County’s DCS custody. 

DCS Agent Heather Huffines and GHS FCCLA member Mason Ward

WHO TO CONTACT IF YOU NEED HELP

  • Smith County’s Department Of Children Services: (615) 735-5502
  • Smith County Sherriff’s Office: (615) 735-2626
  • Gordonsville City Police: (615) 683-6088
  • Carthage City Police: (615) 735-2525
  • District Attorney’s Office: (615) 374-2604