Chrystal Main, spokeswoman for the Division of Child and Family Services, said children being raised in homes where meth is used is a common scenario in Carson City.
"They're subject to a total lack of supervision," she said. "Their home life becomes chaotic, and their basic needs are neglected."
As a result of the neglect, she said, they are often left vulnerable to abuse and injustices committed by unsavory people hanging around the house.
However, the department works first to rehabilitate the family rather than removing the children.
"All the literature indicates that taking a child away is the worst thing in the world for that child," she said.
If abuse is detected, action will be taken. Main said officials rely on the community to alert them to any potential abuse.
"We've all got to be very judicious as a community," she said. "If you suspect anything, report it."
And she noted abuse isn't only physical.
"It's those other types of emotional, psychological or developmental abuses that are often long-term," she said. "A broken arm repairs over a certain amount of time. The psyche does not."
She asked the community to be more watchful, especially in honor of April, which is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
"An increase in meth use leads to an increase in child abuse," she said. "I'm ripped apart every day by what's going on with these children. We really need to work together."
Nanette Oleson, counselor at Fremont Elementary School, said she, too, sees many families dealing with addictions.
She said the most effective tool she has seen is positive role models.
Oleson said programs like the Mentor Center of Western Nevada and Big Brothers Big Sisters can change the course of a child's future.
"I'm here for the kids, but they know it's my job," she said. "What can make a difference is someone positive who is outside the family and has a vested interest in that kid. There's something unique about the fact that there's an individual whose primary interest is that child."
• Contact reporter Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1272.