A woman whose newborn son died in August 2012 was charged with child neglect earlier this month after it was determined that the infant tested positive for methamphetamine.
Teresa Kay Vandiver, 37, of Del City was arrested by Oklahoma City Police and charged in Oklahoma County District Court on February 7, 2014, with one count of child neglect in violation of 21 O.S. 843.5 (C)(D). While Vandiver denied using meth in the days leading up to the delivery, she said that she had used the drug earlier.
Mother Of Nine on Meth
Vandiver, who has nine other children, said that she believed she had become pregnant in April 2012, four months before the newborn died. She told police she could not remember all of her pregnancies, but admitted that Joseph was not the first child she had lost to pre-term birth. Indeed, he was not even the only child she had delivered to test positive for methamphetamine.
In 2007, a child born to Vandiver tested positive for meth, and the baby and three other siblings were taken into DHS custody. Four years later, in 2011, Vandiver delivered a stillborn girl, who also tested positive for meth.
In general, child neglect refers to the neglect of a child who has already been born. However, in this case, Vandiver is charged with neglect of an unborn child by exposing him or her to drugs in utero.
Oklahoma's Child Abuse Laws
The Oklahoma Children's Code defines neglect in 10A O.S. 1-1-105 as follows:
47. "Neglect" means: a. the failure or omission to provide any of the following:
- adequate nurturance and affection, food, clothing, shelter, sanitation, hygiene, or appropriate education,
- medical, dental, or behavioral health care,
- supervision or appropriate caretakers, or
- special care made necessary by the physical or mental condition of the child,
b. the failure or omission to protect a child from exposure to any of the following:
- the use, possession, sale, or manufacture of illegal drugs,
- illegal activities, or
- sexual acts or materials that are not age- appropriate, or
Furthermore, the statute defines "heinous and shocking neglect" as follows:
- chronic neglect that includes, but is not limited to, a persistent pattern of family functioning in which the caregiver has not met or sustained the basic needs of a child which results in harm to the child,
- neglect that has resulted in a diagnosis of the child as a failure to thrive,
- an act or failure to act by a parent that results in the death or near death of a child or sibling, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child, or
- any other similar aggravating circumstance
Perhaps a pattern of drug use while present, that resulted in the deaths of two newborns, the positive drug test of a third, and at least four children being removed from the home, was the "heinous and shocking neglect" that prompted the District Attorney's Office to file criminal charges.
If convicted of a single count of child neglect, Vandiver faces a maximum penalty of life in prison.