An Evansville mother and her boyfriend are under arrest for neglect, after being found passed out in their car with a toddler in the back seat. Police believe the couple was smoking synthetic marijuana outside a gas station.
It’s not known how long the family was sitting in the car when police found them. Though the windows were down, the mother, her boyfriend and the child were all found in the parking lot sweating, with the caretakers passed out in front.
Morgan Clark and her boyfriend Spencer Franklin were found with bags and a hollowed-out cigar filled with synthetic marijuana. But even more disturbing: officers found Clark’s two-year-old daughter in the backseat.
“They were able to get the child out of the car and place her in one of our cars while they did the investigation,” explained Sgt. Jason Cullum of Evansville Police.
Their arrest goes beyond one case of endangerment.
It’s highlighting the vulnerability of children, especially when put in potentially dangerous situations.
“Parents who are using are unpredictable. Sometimes abusive, sometimes neglectful, but definitely unpredictable. A child doesn’t know what they’re going to get from a parent,” listed Donna Lilly, a chemical dependency treatment coordinator for Deaconess.
But besides the physical, exposing kids to drug use can also leave invisible marks.
“A child as young as two can still have a lot of anxiety that’s manifested as crying, tantrums and acting out in other ways,” Lilly continued.
And if parents and caretakers are caught, like Clark and Franklin?
“There’s an absent parent then. If there’s an absent parent, the child makes sense of that. Why is this parent absent? Children many times feel it’s their fault. In their minds, what did I do to cause this parent to be absent?” Lilly added.
First responders try to lessen the effects of what could be one of the most traumatic days in a kids life, providing compassionate care.
“We have stickers, we have wristbands that we hand out,” Cullum iterated. “We call it the EPD zoo. Its a case stuffed full of teddy bears, dinosaurs, anything you can imagine, as well as a bin of books.”
But officers responding to kids exposed to drugs persists. Just a few years ago in Ohio a mother and grandmother were arrested after her children had to be revived with an opiate overdose reversal drug.
“Exposure of children to such dangerous substances is very serious and very egregious,” said Tim Schaffner, Children’s Services Director for Trumbull County in Ohio.
As for these local parents, their arrest serving not only as an opportunity to help a child, but as a chance for change.
“If they’re seeing this modeled in the home they see this as normal behavior. If that’s normal behavior in my home for my parents, that’s going to be normal behavior for me,” said Lilly.
Both Clark and her boyfriend are facing neglect charges and possession charges.
The Department of Child Services in Evansville was unable to comment on the status of their child.