Children of the Opioid Crisis
In 2016, the US brought in a record breaking 92,000 children directly affected by drug addiction, the highest it has been in over 3 decades. After a decade of decline in foster care needs, the past four years has shown a large increase in children coming into foster care due to the opioid crisis. The children are already suffering when you look at any type of foster care statistics. One in eight children in this country are abused or neglected before the age of eighteen. The opioid crisis brings a number of other issues that are causing major concerns for the foster care system in the US. Over 1/3 of the removals in 2016 were due to parents using drugs. The main issues of concern are the age of children coming into care are younger, overdose deaths are leaving more orphans, there are less foster homes, the system was not ready for the increase in children from this crisis.
The Major Concerns:
One of the major concerns the opioid crisis brings are the children coming into the foster care system are getting younger and younger. In the past four years there has been a significant increase in opioid addicted babies. Opioid addicted pregnant women are using drugs while pregnant and giving birth to opioid addicted babies. These poor babies are born addicted and withdrawing from drugs and immediately placed into foster care.
Drug Addicted Babies & Children Orphaned Due to Overdose
Not only are children taken away from their parents and placed in foster care because of their parent’s drug issues, but also because of overdose death. Drug overdoses claimed more than 64,000 lives in 2016, many of them from heroin and prescription pain medications.
A news camera crew in Ohio shot a scene that shocked the nation, three children were in a backseat of a SUV crying all under the age of five, while their parents were overdosing on heroin in the front seat. When parents overdose, the children need to be cared for and go somewhere, more times than not foster care services are being utilized. In an already troubling system that is foster care, the last thing this country needs are more children being fed into that problem.
The foster care system and most local child welfare agencies do not have the funding necessary to take care of all the new children coming into the system due to the drug crisis. The foster care system is stretched; the resources are not there as much as what is needed. NPR did an entire hour-long segment on the topic; the interviews came from states in the mid-west and also the Carolinas. Appropriate funding would be a huge help to the foster care system nationwide. The system is in serious need of help even before the drug crisis affected children’s welfare. The social workers are underpaid and stress is placed on these government workers who do not have adequate funding or resources.
When a child is removed from the home, most of the time the goal is rectifying that relationship with the drug addicted parent. Once the parent gets off the alcohol or drugs and is see fit to be a parent again, foster care hopes the child can return to the home. One of the biggest battles in these types of situations are the high rates of relapse for opioid addiction.
The statistics surrounding foster care are not pretty; the problems with foster care and the drug crisis must be fought on many different battlefronts. Treatment, prevention, stricter prescription medication laws are all on the agenda when it comes to adult drug use, but the children are truly getting the short end of the stick. The children of the drug crisis are also in need. The battle must include help for all of those affected, including the children of addicts. There must be child-centered prevention and treatment programs set in place, the biggest issue is funding for programs like treatment and prevention is scarce.
Most statistics are not going to show the overall pain that is caused to children throughout this drug crisis. The trauma from witnessing a drug overdose from a family member cannot be measured on a chart. Positive programs for those who have lost their children to family services are mainly the drug courts. These are programs that help families heal who struggle with substance abuse issues. The drug court programs implement drug treatment of some kind and requirements must be met in order for parents to be seen as fit parents. Other great programs for those who struggle with substance abuse are family programs in opioid treatment centers. Programs that involve the family inside of treatment programs educate everyone on the disease and how to deal with family issues in a healthy way. The entire family system is being affected by the opioid epidemic because it is not just parents who are struggling, it can be the grandmother and aunt as well. The addiction to heroin, prescription pain medications, and morphine is so strong that anyone can fall into the trap. In some of the larger known drug cities in our country, addiction is seen throughout the generations, parents who struggled with heroin addiction are now seeing their children and grandchildren battle the same disease. The only way that addiction ends is with sobriety, prison or death.
Doing all that we can to educate, prevent and treat, Stepping Sober Addiction Treatment Options knows the battle against addiction can be won. For those struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, Stepping Sober stands as a resource during this troubling time. We are here to help the loved ones and those suffering from the disease of addiction. To learn more call us (800) 518-5205.