Heroin Use by Parents Leads to Growing Number of Children in Foster Care

Officials in states hit hard by heroin use, such as Ohio, say the drug is a major reason for the increasing number of children being placed in foster care.

“What we’re finding more and more is that the parents are addicted to opiates. And more often than not, it’s heroin,” said Timothy Dick, Assistant Director of Child Protective Services in Clermont County, Ohio. More than half the children placed in foster care in the county this year have parents who are addicted to opiates, he said.

In Ohio, 23 percent of child welfare cases investigated in 2013 involved heroin or cocaine, compared with 19 percent three years earlier. The Public Children Services Association of Ohio found 70 percent of children less than a year old who were placed in foster care had parents who were using those drugs.

The number of children living in foster care started to increase in 2013, after years of decline, according to The Huffington Post. In 2014, about 415,000 children in the United States were living in foster care; 15 percent were under age 2.

Nancy Young, Director of the National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare, said while it is not clear how many cases involve parents who abuse drugs or alcohol, caseworkers and judges say most of them do.

In Indiana, 18,925 children were in the child welfare system as of July. Governor Mike Pence linked the high number of children in the system to drug abuse, especially heroin. He hired 113 new caseworkers this year to help handle the increase.

Substance abuse was cited in more than one-third of phone calls to Vermont’s child protection hotline. The number of children in state custody rose 33 percent in one year, to 1,326.

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    kevin weir

    October 15, 2015 at 3:10 PM

    Prescription drug abuse and heroin abuse have overwhelmed an inadequate, underfunded and confused treatment system. The infrastructure of SUD treatment is mired in an alcohol recovery model that is woefully underfunded, a methadone system overregulated, bloated and lacking capacity, and the new Buprenorphine system staffed by the very physicians that cause the overprescription of opiates. The doctors have formed massive,cynical suboxone mills using panels of physicians who sign prescriptions for patients screened and titrated by nurses. Children in families treated by such a disparate system need to be moved to safe havens. Unfortunately, children fall below institutional state concern below SUD parents unless they are about to be terminated.

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    Dave Finch

    October 15, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    A question we need more on is what percentage of those arrestees whose children were taken from them, had shown serious loss of ability to give the child responsible parenting. Many addicts are quite capable of managing their lives effectively and responsibly. Heroin use can be done in moderation. Are families being broken up merely because heroin use is illegal? That would be a worse crime. In a system of toleration of drug use by adults who commit to a robust counseling and monitoring program away from the criminal justice system we could avoid a great deal of the broken family problem. I outline such a system in my book Kill the Drug Trade.

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