More Children Moved Into Foster Care as Opioid Epidemic Worsens

As opioid addiction rates across the U.S. continue to grow, so is the number of children who are moved into foster care homes after losing their parents to addiction. This finding could urge lawmakers and doctors to find new ways to tackle the opioid epidemic more delicately, considering future generations are being directly impacted by their parents’ struggles with substance use disorders, and overwhelming the foster care system.

Need for Foster Care Homes Increases as Opioid Use Rises

Opioid Epidemic

Children in foster care due to parental neglect are at high risk for future life problems.

A new study published in the latest issue of Health Affairs examined the link between the number of opioid prescriptions in Florida, and the number of children removed from their homes due to parental neglect on behalf of opioid dependence. From 2012 to 2015, the number of youth removed from their homes increased by 129%, while at the same time, the number of opioid prescriptions grew by 9%. On average, the study authors found that for every extra 6.7 opioid prescriptions per 100 people, the removal rate for kids experiencing parental neglect increased by 32%.

Study leader Dr. Troy Quast from the University of South Florida initiated the study to gain insight into the correlation between the state’s rising foster care needs and opioid prescriptions. Dr. Quast says that the overall number of opioid prescriptions in Florida have decreased in recent years, but that illicit opioid use has risen to offset the decrease. Florida’s rising foster care needs are now costing the state $40 million annually.

Previous studies have shown that kids removed from their homes due to parental neglect face greater odds of encountering their own life problems later on — including teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and adult criminality. Children of parents who struggle with heroin and painkiller use disorders remain at risk for these problems until the opioid epidemic begins to improve.

The Impact of Addiction on Families

Genetics and environment are among the top risk factors for addiction — meaning kids who have a family history of addiction and who spend time in environments that support alcohol and drug use are often at greater risk for addiction than their peers. But fortunately, any kid who meets these risk factors can change their outcome, and avoid getting caught up in addiction themselves. But the risk for addiction increases the earlier kids are introduced to drugs and alcohol, and the earlier they try these substances for the first time.

When it comes to family dynamics, addiction can cause problems with trust, financial hardship, unpredictable behavior, and divorce — all of which can impact a child’s well-being. Studies show that kids who grow up alongside family members who suffer from addiction are more likely to struggle with their education, and less likely to perform well at school and at work later in life. Kids who begin using drugs and alcohol regularly before they become adults are also more likely to suffer behavioral and mental health disorders due to the way these substances can affect a youth’s developing brain.

How Parents Can Get Help for Addiction

If you are a parent who struggles with opioid addiction or another substance use disorder, getting help now can allow you to keep your family together, and prevent you from losing your children to the foster care system. Drug detox centers can help you overcome physical dependence on drugs and alcohol so you no longer experience drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms associated with drug use. Many detox centers also offer family therapy so you can mend and strengthen relationships with your children after overcoming drug dependence.

Call our 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-351-3840(Who Answers?) for help with finding the nearest drug detox center. Our experienced addiction counselors will discuss all your treatment options, and connect you with all the help you need to become healthier and addiction-free.

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