19 Days of Activism: Child Advocacy Center


Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office

Deputies found a 1-year-old disheveled baby when they responded to the overdose of his mother and her friend in July at a Rutherford County home.

“There was mold in the chocolate milk bottle,” Deputy Joey Vann said of the baby’s bottle. “He was living and playing in an unfinished room with no air conditioning. Nails and tools were lying around. Ultimately, it was an unsafe environment.”

That’s not the first time deputies have found children of parents overdosing living in dangerous homes. Deputies have responded to cases where parents leave needles lying around the home, which is a danger for kids, adults and officers.

Narcotics Detective Sgt. Tony Hall said when finding drug-endangered children, deputies and detectives refer the children to the care of the Department of Children’s Services.

“Anytime we enter the picture, they (children) are going to be initially upset,” Hall said. “Our main priority is to take care of the children. We make sure a family member or neighbor takes care of the children while we take care of parents.”

Thirteen people overdosing died this year in Rutherford County outside the city limits, the sergeant reported. Forty-four overdosing people survived.

This compares to 48 opioid-related deaths in 2017 (including the cities), 18 that were heroin related.

Vann said residents are using heroin, opioids and Suboxone. Users in the 21- to 35-year-old range have young children who are impacted by their parents use and abuse.

“Ultimately, it’s an epidemic all over the world,” Vann said.

Executive Director Sharon De Boer of the Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford and Cannon Counties said people do not think of children when they consider opioid addiction, opioid overdoses and the drug epidemic in America.

People who know a child living in a home where parents are using opioids or other drugs may report the abuse to the Department of Children’s Services Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 1-877-237-0004 or to local law enforcement.

CAC works with DCS to help parents stop using drugs and give children a happier childhood.

CAC Drug Endangered Children Coordinator Tara Davis said many parents cannot afford to go to alcohol and drug treatment or they have no one to care for their children while they are in an in-patient alcohol and drug treatment program.

The CAC offers an in-home counseling option in Rutherford and Cannon Counties that helps parents and their children that teach families how to cope with addiction issues and helps parents stop using drugs.

Services include alcohol and drug education, relapse prevention, anger management, parenting and communication skills and stress management.

The center staff works with children to help them cope with their parents’ addiction and break the generational cycle of drug abuse. Many families served are grandparents who have been granted custody of their grandchildren by the DCS because their child has a drug problem and was not taking care of their children.

Bilingual Family Services Coordinator Anahi Castillo said CAC offers drug endangered children services in English and Spanish.

“The majority of the Hispanic and Latino families that we serve do not have a drug problem,” Castillo said. “They have alcohol problems. The Child Advocacy Center helps families with alcohol addiction. There is often domestic violence, child physical abuse and neglect in the family when there are alcohol problems.”

For more information on services for drug endangered children and their families contact Tara Davis at 615-867-9000 in Rutherford County, Cassell Galligan Davis at 615-563-9915 in Cannon County and Anahi Castillo at 615-867-9000 for bilingual family services.