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Opioid Crisis Causing Ohio Foster Care Numbers to Rise

The national opioid crisis affects more than the addicts – it affects their children too. Hundreds of Ohio families have felt the sting of opioid addiction and that same sting is now being felt on Ohio’s foster care system. The Buckeye State was among five states with foster care increases due to parental drug abuse during the fiscal year of 2017 according to federal data on foster care. The other states with foster care increases are also feeling the brunt of the opioid crisis and include New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Child Trends, a research firm concerned with children and families, said in February 2019 that parental drug abuse was the reason for a third of 268,000 children under 18 being removed from their homes and placed into foster care.

The trends in Ohio mirror trends on a national scale. The rate of kids being put into foster care due to parental drug abuse has increased every year since 2011 with approximately 1.3 in every 100 children suffering. That’s a 5 percent jump from the 2016 fiscal year and a 53% jump from 2007. The costs of Ohio’s foster care system reached $375 million in 2017 and are expected to grow for the predicted number of 20,000 kids in the system by 2020.

“We know that this is a huge issue for our member agencies,” said Scott Britton, assistant director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO). “We’ve heard counties say as much as 80 percent or more of their caseload is drug-involved.”

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 8.3 million children under 18 are living in a household where at least one parent is addicted to drugs or alcohol. Parental drug abuse has been noted for many negative consequences for children including low self-esteem and psychological damage. Children of addicts are more likely to abuse drugs themselves in the future. Experts agree a home with opioids and children is not a happy home.

“Many of these kids watched their parents overdose or die,” said Angela Sausser, PCSAO executive director. “They are missing milestones with their families such as birthday parties and ringing in the New Year, and many are staying in care longer due to their parents’ relapsing.” 

sad foster child

Every state and county have their own rules regarding parental drug abuse and when a home is deemed unsafe for children which could explain odd numbers across the country. New Hampshire has been hit particularly hard by the opioid crisis but recently posted an 84% decrease in foster care due to parental drug abuse. While foster care is tracked other arrangements like children living with a relative are not tracked – but these arrangements are growing too.

According to PCSAO the number of children in Ohio custody but living with relatives has increased by more than 90% over the past five years – another symptom of the opioid crisis. “Our numbers are definitely going up, and they are definitely related to the opioid epidemic,” said deputy director of Clark County Job and Family Services Pam Meermans, “More parents are addicted.”  

Ohio’s Summit County Children Services currently serves around 10,000 children annually in their foster system but the number of children in the system due to opioid abuse is creeping up every year. Almost all Ohio counties are reporting higher than average foster care numbers due to opioids. Drug abuse is now responsible for 28% of foster cases in Ohio with many counties above that average. 43% of the total foster children in Champaign County are due to parental drug abuse. Miami County is one of the only counties with numbers below the state average at 17%. Sadly, the numbers may be higher than data shows since foster children who go to live with relatives are not tracked like children going directly into the state’s system.

How Does Ohio Get Over the Crisis?

Every new report on the opioid crisis illustrates that its arms may be further reaching than expected, but what is being done to help Ohio families and children? Luckily many federal and state health, public safety, and addiction professionals are combating the crisis with as many tools and new practices as possible. First responders including police officers in many Ohio counties are armed with Narcan that can reverse overdoses, hospital, and health officials are keeping addicts from falling through the cracks after hospital visits, and billions of dollars in federal and state aid has been invested to mental health, access to medical care, expansion of FDA-approved opioid deterrent drugs, and much more.

Information on how new federal opioid policy is affecting the foster care system is currently unavailable but overall opioid deaths and overdoses have declined since the federal emergency health declaration in 2016. According to PCSAO drug-related foster cases peaked on July 1, 2018 at 16,514 and have been slowly declining in the latter half of 2018 and the first months of 2019. The 16,514 total foster cases were 3,500 more than the same numbers in 2013.

State officials are hoping that a drop in the number of total addicts will help alleviate a burdened foster care system.

Getting Help

If you or someone you love is in danger of becoming the opioid crisis’s latest victim, you must get help before it’s too late. The one silver lining of the epidemic is more treatment centers and reputable addiction counseling are available now than ever before but that doesn’t mean anything if you don’t take advantage of it. Call us today to learn how our drug and alcohol treatment center can help you get your life back.

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