Heroin Addiction Sends More Children to Foster Care

The Heroin crisis is pushing a crisis on the foster care system.

Heroin addiction to foster care

As more and more lives are depleted by opiate addiction, more and more children are finding their way into a system already overcrowded.

The Cincinnati Enquirer was recently awarded a Pulitzer Prize for their work called Seven Days of Heroin. It paints a painfully accurate view of the crisis and gives you a real-life-view of children, parents, and grandparents living through it all. You can see their story here.

You’ve seen this on the news, watched the videos and heard the stories. A needle in the arm, unconscious and uncaring, overdosing in the front seat of their car. It’s a sad story of a stranger who made bad choices. A problem for our elected leaders to solve as they seek to understand how opioid addiction became an issue and how to stop it. However, lost in this war against the drug is the immediate need of the children sitting in the back seat.

If this is a war, heroin has launched two attacks. One against the parents who are made a slave, and one against the children who are neglected, abused and eventually abandoned. The percent of victims from 2012 to 2014 with the risk factor designation of, “parental drug abuse,” increased from 19.8% to 25.5%.[1] A quarter of 414,429 is quite large indeed and it’s rising.[2]

These climbing numbers are proof of a dangerous level of damage being done to future generations. Assuming every addict was able to fully recover tomorrow, the emotional and physical trauma that needs to be healed would be staggering. All of these parents are not getting clean, however. Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015. Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers, and 12,990 overdose deaths related to heroin in 2015.[3]

Rather than healing, families are fracturing and children are being squeezed into an already strained foster care system. In Ohio, the Public Children Services Association found that 50% of children placed in foster care in 2015 were placed due to abuse or neglect associated with parental drug use.[4]

At Necco, we are dealing with this first hand and believe that this is the time to draw a line in the sand.

“Trauma sustained by children of the opiate epidemic is less obvious than that of physical and sexual abuse. We are treating children who have been severely neglected, lived in terrible conditions, and pushed into caretaker roles for their younger siblings or even their own parents. Some have even watched their parents overdose. Because of the heavy burden that has been placed on them, part of our treatment has been just teaching them how to be kids.” -Jennifer Riddle, LISW-S, Necco Treatment Director

Foster care is where the battle can be joined by anyone. Saving a person who overdoses requires doctors, EMTs and nurses. Targeting drug dealers and suppliers requires law enforcement. To be a foster parent, you just need a ready supply of patience and love.

The system is straining under the weight, it’s up to us to do what we can. Join us and help those children in need. As experts in all things foster care, we’re here to take the next step with you. We suggest you reach out. You can fill out this form and one of our knowledgeable staff will respond. If you’re not quite ready for that maybe check out the most frequently asked questions.

[1] The U.S. Opioid Epidemic. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2015). http://www.hhs.gov/opioids/about-the-epidemic/

[2] The AFCARS Report (June 2016): https://www.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/cb/afcarsreport23.pdf

[3] Rudd RA, Seth P, David F, Scholl L. Increases in Drug and Opioid-Involved Overdose Deaths — United States, 2010–2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2016;65:1445–1452. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm655051e1

[4] The Public Children Services Association, 13th Eddition (2017) http://www.pcsao.org/pdf/factbook/2017/PCSAOFactbook.pdf