BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The stories are terrifying, children found in homes where drugs are being made or used and what is even worse is law enforcement officers will tell you they see it all the time.
"We raided a house and we were all ready for the drug arrest to take down the lab," Lori Moriarty with the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children said. "We had no idea that children were going to be in there and when we video taped that raid and turned the corner we saw a 9-month-old child sitting on the floor right in the middle of the meth lab."
Moriarty spent many years in law enforcement, but she told a crowd at the Biloxi Civic Center Wednesday that particular case made her step back and think.
"As a child abuse investigator I saw broken bones, sexual abuse, fatalities and I missed substance abuse being a key factor," Moriarty said. "Then I started commanding an undercover drug unit and focused on the drugs and missed the children."
Moriarty has now dedicated her life to not missing those children. She works for the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children in Colorado and travels the country speaking to others.
"If you see a toddler walking towards a street you will stop the toddler because the street means danger, traffic could get hit by a car," Moriarty said. "When you have a kid living in a drug home we wait until they get hit by a car and we can't do that anymore. Kids are resilient we need to tap into their resiliency and change their trajectory instead of letting them keep living in the cycle of abuse and neglect."
According to national statistics every ten seconds a report of child abuse is made in the United States and anywhere from one to two thirds of child mistreatment cases involve substance abuse. That statistic is something HIDA Task Force training Coordinator Lt. Eddie Hawkins wants to do something about. Hawkins along with the United States Attorney General's Office held a one day training to get law enforcement officers, social workers, school nurses and others together to find out what can be done to help these children.
"This issue is so important because we have a lot of children who we find in drug-related homes where their parents are abusing controlled substances," Hawksin said. "This gives the officers an opportunity to see what they need to do and how to communicate with their agencies and provide information and share information so that we can help these children."
Several Biloxi police officers were amongst those at the training.
"The connections the officers will make here are very important," Biloxi Police Chief John Miller said, "there is someone they can call to find out what we can do for these children, it's very important to have these connections."
"Fifty-nine percent of the children who have been abused or neglected end up in the criminal justice system, I don't know why we wait for that," Moriarty said. "Thirty percent commit a violent crime, why do we wait for that, truly we all have a responsibility. Our children are only 30 percent of our population but they are 100 percent of our future and so we need to start changing that, we need to focus on what we can do for them."
And Moriarty said it is not just those in law enforcement who can help, you can help too.
"I think we all have a responsibility as mandatory reporters within our community that if we see a child that is being abused or neglected we need to report it," Moriarty said.