It’s a sad scene played out repeatedly across America — more than 20,000 times in the last three years — police removing a child from a home and then decontaminating her.
One girl had been living with her uncle, who was arrested for allegedly running a toxic methamphetamine lab — a threat to her health.
Crossville, in rural Cumberland County, knows the problem well. Authorities here have taken hundreds of abused children from squalid meth homes. But the county lacked social service facilities and could only keep the children at the jail, until foster parents could be found.
That's why the whole town came together to open The House of Hope.
"Well, this is our problem,” explains Cumberland County Sheriff Butch Burgess. “These are our kids, and we're going to take care of it."
Once a residential home, the House of Hope is now a short-term care facility for children known as "meth orphans." Here they finally have a safe place to play and rest until foster care is arranged.
Each child is given new clothes and a stuffed animal — for many, a first.
"It means the world to them,” says House of Hope volunteer Karen Frantzen. “A lot of times they've never had one thing, ever."
The children are fed and bathed and doctors voluntarily provided medical care.
"We want to provide them with an environment that they can see that they are loved,” says volunteer Dr. Barry Wagner, “and make them feel safe."
The entire community pitches in. Bookshelves in the playroom were built by local Girl Scouts and volunteers from the town theater painted the walls.
What makes this even more unique is that the community paid for everything. Not one penny came from taxes — federal, state or local. It's all from private donations.
Recently, a local radio station held a fund-raiser to help pay the rent and, outside the Wal-Mart, volunteers collected donations from shoppers.
Crossville is a town trying to break the cycle of addiction, by creating a model for other communities trying to save the smallest victims.