Foster Care System Sees Alarming Increase in Children of Addicts
In the state of Ohio, it is estimated that approximately 50 percent of children currently in foster care have one or both parents who are addicts.
Approximately 2.5 million children whose parents are addicts are being raised by grandparents or other relatives. Those who don’t have family members to take over the parental role go into the foster care system.
In Ohio alone, it is estimated that 50 percent of children currently in foster care have one or both parents who are drug addicts, says Mike DeWine, the state’s attorney general.
DeWine also says that the number of children in agency custody is up 14 percent in the last five years, reports CBS News.
Jill Wright, executive director of Children’s Services in Adams County, Ohio, says the current numbers are the worst she’s seen in her 26 years working in foster care.
“We’re removing one to three infants a month that are born addicted to drugs,” she says. “Those infant mothers? A lot of them we never see again. They never come to visit. They just leave their child and continue on with their addiction.”
Suzanne Valle and her husband are foster parents and are currently raising her brother’s four children. Both of their parents are heroin addicts.
When asked what she tells her nieces and nephews about their parents, she replied, “I tell them that their parents love them, but they just are not able to take care of them.”
Valle is also currently raising a one-year-old boy whose mother is also an addict.
Countrywide Foster Care Increase
Ohio isn’t the only state seeing a drastic rise in foster care numbers.
From 2011 to 2015, the foster care population in Massachusetts has increased 19 percent. North Dakota’s population has gone up over 27 percent, according to The Washington Post.
Experts say that in the past two years, another rush of children have been entered into the system due to the intensifying opioid epidemic.
“It’s pretty much every state — except maybe four or five — that have seen an increase in the number of children in foster care,” says John Sciamanna, vice president of public policy at the Child Welfare League of America. “What you are seeing now is just a straining of the system.”
Babies Born Addicted in America
From 2000 to 2013, the rate of babies born addicted to drugs increased five times.
Deb McLaughlin of Greenbush, Maine, is currently raising her 3-year-old grandson who was born addicted to drugs.
McLaughlin describes her grandson as an “adrenaline junkie” who seeks out pain in place of drugs.
Sensory issues, speech delays, and sleep anxieties are common in children born to addicted parents, according to The Washington Post.
McLaughlin’s grandson is no longer allowed at day care because he has attempted to hurt his classmates.
“It’s hard to see him go through these emotional meltdowns when he’s inconsolable. I have seen my husband near tears because his grandson is in such an emotional state.”
Bette Hoxie, executive director of Adoptive and Foster Families for Maine, says an increasing amount of infants are entering the system, largely because a new state law requires infants be tested for drugs if their mother is suspected of using or had used drugs while pregnant.
Hoxie’s organization provides support and training for foster families and says they receive around 900 calls each month with families looking for advice or support.
“I don’t think there’s been a conversation in the last year about foster families or kinship families that didn’t allude to substance abuse.”
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