August 30, 2006
Reported by Rhonda Kitchens
According to the regional director of the Office of Community Services, child abuse and neglect is on the rise in the five-parish area.
"In the months of February, March, and April, we had the highest number of intake calls in this agency," says Sherry Royer, "than we've ever had in 30 years."
The most recent case was just this week when 20-year-old Charisse Little was arrested after a deputy found her two-year-old son wandering the streets of Lake Charles, alone.
Royer says, "We respond immediately to those kinds of cases, especially where children are left alone or children are out on the streets unattended."
Little admitted to deputies she had used drugs several times on August 26th and 27th in front of her son. On the morning of the 28th she says the two laid down for a nap. The toddler was found around 12:30, Little didn't wake up until several hours later. Royer says its a common sign of the danger that exists when parents become addicted to drugs.
"Either through excessive sleeping, manic behaviors, behaviors that take them out of the home."
This is far from being an isolated incident. Royers says 70 percent, or greater, of the cases coming into her office are directly related to drug abuse.
"They really interfere with that comittment of a parent to parent a child."
For now, the toddler remains in state custody. Just as any case where a child is removed from the home, a hearing is held within 72 hours to decide what the next step will be. But Royer says its rare in cases like this to see the child returned home in such a short amount of time.
"Most of the time, when we make the call that a child needs to be taken from the home it takes more than 72 hours to come up with another plan for the child."