Lori Moriarty picks up her children, Santos, 5, left, and Arlo, 3, from school. She and her partner, Robin Hardman, adopted the brothers after the Department of Human Service Removed them from their mother, a drug addict. "Being a good parent is difficult when you're clean and sober, so being a good parent is impossible when you're high on drugs or struggling with addiction," says Moriarty, a former commander of the North Metro Task Force, a multijurisdictional undercover drug unit.
"I left law enforcement after 20 years in it because this was the first time that I actually felt proactive instead of reactive to stuff that had gone bad. Now I'm working at changing the trajectory of a child's life," says Moriarty. (Craig F. Walker, The Denver Post)
"If you look closely at all the child maltreatment deaths in Colorado, you would find out that law enforcement likely had some kind of contact with the family well before the death, and you will find that a lack of collaboration likely was a significant factor in not saving that child's life," said Lori Moriarty, the former commander of the North Metro Task Force.
After a career in law enforcement, Moriarty went on to work as vice president of the nonprofit National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, a position that allows her to train police officers and child protection workers on the importance of coordinating efforts. She has also adopted two children whose mother was a drug addict.
She remembers the incident that changed her life: a 2002 drug raid of a Thornton house by officers equipped with oxygen tanks and respirators to protect them from the noxious fumes of a meth lab. Inside they encountered a barely clothed 14-month-old boy. The raid made front-page news.
Moriarty then delved into the statistics and found that in one year, 137 children had been left behind after arrests by the task force.
Of those children, half were known to child protection services before the drug raids. Of those, only 12 percent were receiving ongoing services, anything from foster care to parenting classes.
Child protection staffers told her they couldn't intervene in more cases because they were unable to determine whether drug use and violence were harming the children.
"We were like, 'We could tell you that every time,' " she said. "We have that piece, so why are we not sharing this information. ... Why can't we start thinking about the futures of these children?"
Photojournalist Anne Herbst, The Denver Post
(Copyright 2012 The Denver Post)