Foster Care Numbers, Opioid Addiction on the Rise

The number of children in foster care is steadily increasing in America. The American Psychological Association reported a 10% of a national increase in children admitted to foster care between 2013 to 2016. This indicated worrisome trends directly related to neglect via drug abuse by a parent. A large portion of the national increase (32%) is due directly to a surge of parental Opioid use, and negative side effects that lead to parents’ inability to tend to the needs of their children. Despite the many variables producing increases in children in foster care, a significant amount is a byproduct of the Opioid Epidemic.

About 75% of children in local foster care systems come from homes where parental Opioid abuse took place.

In recent years, Tennessee has had high numbers of parental Opioid abuse, resulting in a 10% increase in children in foster care. In states like Maryland, some increases caused by the Opioid epidemic are more shocking. Between 2010 and 2016, the surge in Opioid-related deaths quadrupled. Despite suffering the unfortunate deaths, Opioid abuse saw “30 percent leap” statewide between 2014 and 2017.

Likewise, Ohio witnessed a 19% increase in foster care children due to parents with an Opioid use disorder. Other states like Wyoming, South Dakota, New York, and Puerto Rico noticed increases in youth foster care caused by parental substance abuse. These numbers don’t focus solely on women who gave birth while abusing Opioids, but these cases should not be overlooked.

The Ripple Effect Between Opioids and Foster Care Children

Like most of American’s fight with Opioids, many parents find themselves under the grip of prescription medications. What begins as a solution for dental aches and and chronic pain easily becomes a lifelong dependence with potentially fatal consequences. Parents who have been prescribed painkillers like Oxycontin® and Percocet® may later become dependent on more potent Opioids like Heroin to get the same effects. They often have trouble balancing daily responsibilities. As Opioids’ powerful chemicals alter the mind and body, parents risk job loss, family conflict, and overdoses and endanger themselves and their children by frequently associating themselves with others abusing Opioids.

Another ripple effect from Opioid abuse is the loss of feeling protected and ease of living foster care children experience.

If children are moved between many foster care homes, they may not experience the sense of community needed to form a firm identity. Feeling unsafe, children can lose out on fundamental comfort and parental closeness needed for bonding. They can develop anxiety and depression in trying to cope with memories of a family member abusing Heroin. Because they do not understand the motivation behind substance use disorders, they can blame themselves.

At its worst, it can lead to exposure and awareness of Opioids at a young age. A study by the National Center For Biotechnology Information found in an examination of Missouri foster care children that “45% of foster care youth [used] alcohol or other substances, with 6% of the sample groups using Opiates”. The numbers varied depending on age.

A Modern Tragedy

The increase children being placed into foster care as a result of parental Opioid abuse is troubling on many levels. The first being parents battling Opioid abuse may suffer from physical deterioration and psychological distress. The second is marked by children watching parents lose themselves in the downward spiral of a substance use disorder. Not only does this create difficult relationships between the child and the parent but can also damage the child emotionally.

The tragedy that is the Opioid crisis continues to be a topic among many from the public health and political spheres. The number of kids affected by Opioids, as well as those in the youth foster care community, still grows.