The recent national explosion of methamphetamine use has led to a recognition that children are silent victims of this epidemic. Drug-endangered children (DEC) are those children who suffer physical and/or psychological harm resulting from environmental exposure to illegal drugs or to persons involved in drug use and/or manufacturing. As part of the DEC evaluation, urine samples are obtained from the children to test for the presence of any illicit drug, in particular methamphetamine and cocaine. The traditional nationally recommended protocol for drug screening in children who are brought into protective custody are Level 1, the presence of a drug laboratory or those chemicals used in drug manufacturing, or Level 2, drugs and/or drug paraphernalia present and easily accessible to the child. A third group of children, deemed Level 3, were seen at the UC Davis CAARE Center and tested for drugs in their urine solely because there were clinical concerns of parental drug use in the home, but no drugs or paraphernalia were found. Using the above three level criteria, 865 children were examined at the UCD from March 2001 to July 2006. Of the 865 children tested, 111 (13%) were positive for illegal drugs. Of the Level 1 victims (n = 23), 17% tested positive; of Level 2 (n = 468), 15% tested positive; and of Level 3 (n = 327), 10% were positive. The results show that in the Level 3 group of children in which there were no drugs found in the home, there was statistically no difference in the drug test results between all three groups. This argues strongly for expanding the screening criteria for children brought into protective custody to include that group of children in which there are only concerns of parental drug use.
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