News 25’s Shelby Myers spoke to judges in Hancock County and has the details for new programs set up to end the abusive cycle.
Four hundred and twenty: that’s the amount of children in Hancock County who have been removed from their families because they’ve been neglected and abused.
The reason: “Drug abuse,” said Elise Deano, a youth court judge, “Quite frankly, I think it is a precipitating factor that causes the abuse and the neglect. If we were able to strip that away, we wouldn’t have kids being left at home for 12 hours or being left out to wonder or being hit and not fed. So even though, it’s an abuse and neglect problem on paper, it’s a drug problem in my opinion that needs to be.”
Judge Deano says 80 percent of the cases she has ordered removal of children from their parents’ custody is because of drug use, specifically crystal methamphetamine.
But Youth Court Chief Administrative Officer Sandy Steckler says don’t worry. “Help is on the way. After we got the task force moving and we were able to bring it to the attention of the general public, we were able to get so much support for all three branches of government, from churches.”
That governmental support comes in a $75 thousand fund to start a juvenile court and a free representation program for parents. Judge Deano says she wants to return these children to their homes as soon as possible, but not before the parents are clean and drug free.
Judge Deano hopes these two new programs will be a catalyst for free rehab centers and programs for parents who need serious help.
Hancock County accounts for almost 90 percent of the domestic violence cases in the 8th Chancery District, which includes Hancock, Harrison and Stone Counties.