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Drug Endangered Children Awareness

What is DEC?

The National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children (DEC) defines drug endangered children as children who are at risk of suffering physical, mental or emotional harm because of parent or caregiver legal or illegal substance misuse. They may also be children whose caretaker’s legal or illegal substance use interferes with the caretaker’s ability to parent and provide a safe and nurturing environment.


However, that definition is changing as our communities are changing. 52,771 Tennessee children were linked to drug endangered child allegations in 2021 (Learn more). That means that there were 52,771 children in the state of Tennessee that potentially witnessed substance use, production of substances, abuse, neglect, and trauma. Every child deserves to feel loved, safe, and protected. Unfortunately, that is not the case for a drug endangered child. Yet, today, drug endangered children does not solely include the children who have experienced substances in their home or the aftermath of such; but, it also includes our youth who are susceptible to self-medicating, social influences, and substance misuse as a whole.

Why Does This Matter?

This epidemic is important not only because these are our children and our future, but because of what this causes for many children into adolescence and adulthood. Children who endure adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are put in the position to experience negative outcomes. This has been proven true by Dr. Vincent J. Felitti and Dr. Robert F. Anda, who facilitated a research study between the correlation of adverse childhood trauma and negative outcomes (Check it out). The participants in the study scored their ACEs, one point for every ACE they experienced. Dr. Felitti and Dr. Anda found that not only was there correlation, but there was measured connection. In summary, children who experience trauma are more likely to suffer from negative outcomes whether it be health, difficulty forming healthy relationships, or risky behavior just to name a few. Take an ACEs test to see what your score may be.


With that being said, we can conclude that being able to identify the children who are drug endangered also identifies children who are susceptible to negative outcomes. If we, in our community, can recognize these factors and bring awareness to this issue, we will be able to change the trajectory of their lives.

Our Purpose.

We as the Cheatham Community Enhancement Coalition provide a multitude of resources and programs with DEC being one of them. Our DEC program is funded through the TBI’s Dangerous Drugs Taskforce in hopes to save children and adolescents that are impacted by substance misuse. Our DEC Coordinator is 1 of 13 in the state of Tennessee. This is unique as many states have a state DEC program, but not multiple coordinators spreading from the west to the east like Tennessee. That is because there is not only a need, but there is also a desire to help the youth who are in need.

The Coalition strives to identify the needs of our community in hopes to intervene and even prevent when possible. We currently offer:

-Camp Thrive- a program that is centered around youth ages 9-14 and their families in hopes to provide fun excursions, healthy coping education, and peer connection.

-Behind Closed Doors- An interactive, mock teen bedroom where parents can examine the items to know the signs of substance use, mental health, and teen dating violence.

-Linkage to resources right here in Cheatham County.

-Overdose prevention training and naloxone distribution through our regional overdose prevention specialists.

-Programs for court-ordered justice involved youth.

-Healthy mindset programs within Cheatham County Schools.

And much more.


You can be a part. Sign up to be a coalition member, stay in the know by following our Facebook page and signing up for our newsletters, volunteer with us, and see how you can do your part in our community.


“Drug-Endangered Children.” Tennessee State Government - TN.Gov, Accessed 22 Mar. 2024.

“The Original ACE Study” Administration for Children and Families, – Accessed 20 Mar.2024  

Check out our news clip from this past DEC Awareness Day!

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