People are constantly living on the edge of crisis and kids are the collateral damage. CEO Beau Necco is witness to this struggle on a daily basis. He recently sat down to talk about the U.S. opioid crisis and its far-reaching consequences to families.
It’s all but impossible to find a community in the US that has not been wounded by the rise of opioid abuse and addiction. The 24/7 news cycle overwhelms us with statistics:
We average 115 overdose deaths per day.(1)
Prescription opioid-related deaths have quadrupled since 1992.(2)
66% of overdose deaths are attributed to opioids, and so on.(3)
Death tolls are often the most efficient way for media outlets and community advocates to provoke shock, concern, and calls for change. What many don’t realize when focusing on these deaths, however, is that most people who struggle with opioid abuse and addiction don’t die. They lead lives of instability and trauma that profoundly affect those close to them—especially children.
Founded in 1996, Beau Necco has witnessed the acceleration of this epidemic through the front-lines perspectives of clients, case managers, counselors, and foster parents. Referrals for placement far surpass capacity every year.
We're reaching critical mass and change is needed.
While the whole country experiences the consequences of widespread opioid addiction, some communities are feeling more pressure than others. Three of the four states in which we work–Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia consistently rank among the top for opioid-related issues. The social safety net in these states is breaking as more and more children’s lives are upended by opioid abuse in their families.
Crisis in Ohio
A December 2017 report from the Public Children Services Association of Ohio describes how “a tsunami of opioid-affected children is flooding Ohio’s children services agencies, exploding county budgets, and overwhelming available foster care resources.” From July 2013 to October 2017, Ohio saw a net increase of nearly 3,000 foster kids in care–a 24% uptick for the state, while the nation’s overall foster care population has grown by 8%. If this pace continues as expected, more than 20,000 Ohio children will be in care by 2020. In that time, the cost of placing them in foster homes is expected to surge by 67% to over half a billion dollars per year, according to the same report from the PCSAO.(5)
Crisis in Kentucky
Kentucky is experiencing the same strain. Since 2011, children living in Kentucky foster care has also increased more than 24% and intake calls received by child welfare caseworkers across the state have doubled.(6) The state’s budget issues have also complicated the problem. Funding for early intervention programs and support services designed to prevent separation of families have been “cut to the bone,” according to Governor Matt Bevin.
Crisis in West Virginia
In West Virginia, the number of kids in foster care is increasing by approximately 1,000 per year as well. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reports that the general consensus regarding the number of children coming into care due to substance abuse is at least 50 percent–likely a conservative estimate, considering the wide-reaching impact of addiction in the state.(7)
These states aren’t just drowning in opioids; they’re running out of life rafts for the kids whose parents and relatives are embroiled in addiction.
At NECCO, we work to break the cycle of poverty by building families. “Every situation is unique, every family situation is different. The trauma is unique, but the solutions and what we’re trying to achieve is always the same,” Necco explained. “We want to build a family that will create the most sustainable outcomes for each client.”
For NECCO, this means not only providing homes for child placement and resources for foster families, but also a variety of services to help our kids heal from the damage caused by living with addiction.
“Can you imagine being a kid in that situation? That constant stress and worry?” Necco asked before continuing, “We don’t even know yet-the after effects-what it’ll look like in 20 years. The PTSD for kids in this situation. We don’t have the data for that yet. It’s heartbreaking.”
Not yet, he says, but NECCO is a social enterprise committed to improving our services through analytics and performance-based management. We strive to gain better insights into our clients and the services we deploy to help them. Our unique relationship with the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall policy research center has enabled us to not only measure outcomes effectively but also make iterative improvements and efficient decisions.
These insights are combined with our organizational belief in Nicholas Hobbs’s twelve principles of re-education for troubled kids and young adults. These principles are focused on building supportive, positive communities and habits for children who have experienced trauma and neglect. Examples include “a child should know joy in each day,” “trust between a child and adult is essential,” “the group is very important,” and others.(8) Our staff works to not only ensure that NECCO foster kids’ needs are met, but also to nurture and celebrate sustainable gains in their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.
In fact, NECCO’s mission is to change the face of child well-being in the communities we serve. Hundreds of thousands of kids are dealt a bad hand in life and enter care every year. Regardless of why they came into care, though, every child needs the same thing: a family.
“Every kid has a different treatment plan, but if we can teach them good habits and focus on their individual strengths in a positive way, that’s a win,” Necco said. “A win for that kid, a win for society, and win for breaking the cycles of poverty, addiction, and deviancy.”
(8) Necco Mission