ROCK HILL, S.C. — Five moms face up to ten years in prison in South Carolina after authorities said they and their children tested positive for meth among other drugs.
Rock Hill Police and the York County Sheriff's Office told NBC Charlotte, since Sunday, Shelbi Keith, Jennifer Outen, Ashley Branham, Brittany Burns, and Courtney Blocker were charged with unlawful conduct towards a child.
"We are talking about children being exposed to heroin, strong opioids. and meth," Det. Robert Smith with Rock Hill Police told NBC Charlotte. "These are terrible drugs, and we don't know the lasting effects. We could be melting babies' brains, and we are just letting it go."
Det. Smith was involved with three of the five recent cases.
"In my first case, the mother had left her daughter in the care of other drug users and her statement to me was, 'I told them as long as they keep that in their bedroom, it won't be a problem.' But we are talking about exposing children to needles," Det. Smith said.
The issue surrounding drug use around children or even while pregnant is a known concern with police, the Department of Social Services, and hospitals.
"I think everybody immediately reacts to the child that comes in with bruises on their body. Everyone can immediately see a problem with a sexual assault on a child. But I don't think enough people see or understand what happens to a child when their mother uses meth," Detective Smith said.
"I have a family member who works in a neonatal intensive care unit and because of that, I constantly hear about these children who go through withdrawal symptoms. When you see that, you realize somebody has got to do something about it," he added.
In North Carolina, there is not a specific law that prosecutes women for substance abuse while pregnant.
In South Carolina, under the Title 63 Children's Code, the crime carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.