WILL Research Fellow, Natalie Goodnow, writes in the Washington Examiner on the impact of the opioid crisis on the country’s foster care system.
We may not always think of children when we think of this, but they are a voiceless population that bears some of the worst repercussions of the opioid epidemic. The number of kids in foster care has grown 10 percent nationwide since 2012, but in some states foster care has grown by 50 to 100 percent. In 2016, there were 440,000 kids in care, with about 120,000 waiting to be adopted.
Parental drug abuse reportedly played a role in at least a third of cases where children were removed from their homes in 2016. Some counties and states estimate that opioids are involved in up to 80 percent or more of removals in their area.
A recent report from the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty shows a strong relationship between opioid dependency and the rate of children entering care, including a significant relationship between babies born addicted to drugs or alcohol and the share of children age 0-1 in care. The rate of babies born addicted to drugs or alcohol has skyrocketed in the United States, increasing as much as fivefold between 2000 and 2012. Their first few weeks of life are spent going through withdrawal.
Children less than a year old made up 18 percent of foster care entries in the United States in 2016, almost 50,000 kids, more than double the size of any other age group entering care. This is up from 16 percent in 2012. This two percentage point change represents 8,000 more infants taken annually from their homes and placed in care.
The federal government has announced millions in grants to states over the past year, to helpreduce opioid abuse and strengthen families. Only a few months ago, the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis released a 138-page collection of recommendations. One was for the federal government to share best practices with states on ways to keep families affected by the drug crisis together, as well as research promising strategies for pregnant and postpartum women with substance abuse disorders and their babies.