Emily Rice Published

W.Va. Children 5 Times More At Risk Of Drug Endangerment


The West Virginia Child Advocacy Group (WVCAN) saw a nearly 10 percent increase in new children served in the past five years according to a new report released on Thursday.

WVCAN operates 21 Child Advocacy Centers (CAC) which provide official service to 46 of 55 counties in the state.

Each CAC provides a safe, child-friendly facility where child protection, criminal justice and child treatment professionals work together to investigate abuse, hold offenders accountable and help children heal.

Kate Flack is the CEO of WVCAN. She said awareness of the program could account for the increase in new children served.

“Every time that we help build awareness, more children are disclosing to mandated reporters, more children’s cases are being investigated by CPS and law enforcement, and CPS and law enforcement make referrals to child advocacy centers,” Flack said. “So the children can come to a safe child-friendly facility to do a forensic interview with a trained forensic interviewer, who asks questions in a non-leading developmentally appropriate way.”

According to the report, children from 0 to six years old make up 25 percent of new children served at a CAC. Children ages seven to 12 account for 43 percent of new children served at a CAC. Finally, children ages 13 to 18 years old account for 32 percent of new children served at a CAC.

Flack said the majority of West Virginia offenders are over the age of 18.

“It represents the vulnerability that our children face,” Flack said. “That 96 percent of our alleged offenders were someone that child knew. So a lot of times when people think about child sexual abuse or physical abuse, they imagine stranger danger. And while there are, you know, cases of that, for sure, the majority, the vast majority of abuse that kids face, are people who are in positions of trust.”

The report shows 14 percent of the West Virginian children served were at a CAC because of allegations of drug endangerment. That is 4.7 times higher than the national average.

“Knowing that with poly-victimization, with the risks that kids face, if they are drug endangered, not only for neglect, you know, so not receiving adequate supervision, but it increases the risk of other types of abuse,” Flack said.

Flack said she is committed to her work and hopeful for state and federal investment into the program. 

“The CDC lifetime costs to society for each victim of abuse is $210,000,” Flack said. “And so I mean, if the average cost for services for each of these children from the CAC is between $1,000 and $2,000 per kid, and so really, I mean, a little, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound, or an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.