Make no mistake, the opioid epidemic in America has reached a crisis level, and America’s foster care system is struggling, as a result.
America’s foster care system is in crisis, and it is the nation’s opioid epidemic that is the cause.
This opioid epidemic in America continues to claim more victims and, continues to destroy more families. Each day in the United States, an estimated 142 people die of fatal overdoses, 91 of these from opioids, totaling to a staggering to 52,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015. Public health officials call it the worst drug crisis in the nation’s history. Indeed, the deaths from heroin alone have surged and have claimed more lives in 2015 than homicides by guns.
Make no mistake, the opioid epidemic in America has reached a crisis level.
A report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that the rate of overdose deaths and drug-related hospitalizations has also increased the nation’s number of child-welfare cases.
The state of Florida has seen a 38 percent increase in the number of children under the age of 5 who have been removed from homes because of substance abuse and placed into foster care. Georgia has seen their number of children placed into state care rise from, 7600 in September 2013 to 13,266 in November of 2016. Indiana has seen their numbers increasing by 37 percent from 12,382 in 2013 to 17,023 in 2015. Minnesota saw an increase of children placed into their state foster care by 33%.
“Some states are doing far better than others and some states are really struggling,” said Kim Phagan-Hansel, managing editor of The Chronicle of Social Change and editor of Fostering Families Today. “Any issues like the opioid epidemic that comes along puts increased pressure on these states that don’t have enough foster parents for the number of kids coming into the system. A lot of times that means that those states rely heavily on kinship families to fill that gap.”
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that in 2016, the opioid epidemic claimed the lives of more than 64,000 people, nearly double the number of people who died in deadly automobile accidents.
Shockingly, up to 94 percent of babies born to mothers who used opioids while pregnant will suffer symptoms of drug withdrawal.
Yet, it is not just those addicted to opioids that suffer. Indeed, over the course of the past decade, the number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has quadrupled over the course of 15 years in the United States. Shockingly, up to 94 percent of babies born to mothers who used opioids while pregnant will suffer symptoms of drug withdrawal. Maine, Vermont and West Virginia lead the nation. Out of every 1,000 babies born in these states, at least 30 are born with NAS. Another study found that babies born the past decade suffering from NAS increased five-fold across the nation. Furthermore, yet another study found that a baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawals every 25 minutes.
As more and more parents become addicted to opioids, thousands of more children are being placed into a foster care system throughout the nation ― a system that is struggling to properly assist these children due to lack of resources, foster parents, and funding. Indeed, the number of children entering into foster care between 2012–2015 rose by eight percent, due much in part to opioid addictions, and that number continues to climb.
As noted in the book Helping Foster Children in School: A Guide for Foster Parents, Social Workers, and Teachers, one of the reasons children are placed into foster care is due to parental drug abuse. “Those parents who abuse drugs and/or alcohol place their children in danger. This danger may result in neglect, physical abuse, or domestic violence. The larger number of children being placed into foster care, nationwide, is due much in part of an increase in parental drug usage and substance abuse, with Heroin use being the chief drug increasing among parents. Other substance abuse among parents include meth, cocaine and prescription medication abuse.
Broken families, lost children, and a foster care system that can not meet the increasing demand.
With this crisis continuing to sweep across the nation, the foster care system is struggling. Indeed, as more parents are incarcerated due to drug and opioid usage, or even tragically lose their lives, thousands of more children are being placed into a foster care system throughout the nation, a system that is struggling to properly assist these children due to lack of resources, foster parents, and funding. As more children are being placed into care, the foster care system also faces the challenge of the shortage of foster parents and foster homes across the nation. With roughly 450,000 children in foster care across the nation, there are not enough foster homes, as foster care agencies face the challenge of recruitment and retention of foster parents
Broken families, lost children, and a foster care system that can not meet the increasing demand; a system that can not keep up with this nationwide crisis. The opioid crisis in America continues to climb, continues to claim more victims, and continues to lead to more deaths, it is the children in the nation that are falling through the cracks. It is the children in the nation that are the hidden victims. It is the children in the nation that are unable to protect themselves from this drug use.
Dr. John DeGarmo is an international parenting and foster care expert, and a TEDx speaker. Dr. John has been a foster parent for 17 years, and he and his wife have had over 60 children come through their home. He is an international consultant to schools, legal firms, and foster care agencies, as well as an empowerment and transformational speaker and trainer for schools, child welfare, businesses, and non profit organizations. He is the author of several books, including The Foster Care Survival Guide, and writes for several publications. Dr. John has appeared on CNN HLN, Good Morning, America, ABC, CBC, NBC, FOX,and elsewhere, He and his wife have received many awards, including the Good Morning America Ultimate Hero Award. He can be contacted at drjohndegarmo@gmail, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.