Opioid overdose deaths sending record number of children into foster care

Since 2014, the number of children introduced into foster and state care systems has increased due to parent-related overdoses, relapses or prolonged recovery, according to The Hill.

Here are three things you need to know:

1. Due to the record number of children entering the foster and state care systems, government resources are becoming strained. Children entering these systems are younger on average and stay in the system longer, especially in states hit hardest by the epidemic. Among those states, the populations of children in foster or state care have risen by 15 to 30 percent in the past four years.

"A huge number of children [are] coming into the system now because of parental addiction to opioids that a lot of [the] time has been brought on by pain medication," said Wendi Turner, executive director of the Ohio Family Care Association, to The Hill.

2. While the number of children in foster care declined nationwide from 2000 to 2010, foster care populations began to increase in 2010 as opioid deaths rose. West Virginia, which has the highest overdose rates in the U.S., has seen its foster care population increase by 42 percent since 2014.

Massachusetts had a record low of children in state or foster care earlier that decade, but since then, that number has increased by 25 percent — leaving the state with more children in foster care than ever before.

Ohio's number of children entering state custody has grown by 28 percent since 2015. In Alabama, Alaska, California, Idaho, Indiana, Minnesota and New Hampshire, foster populations have climbed more than 30 percent since 2014.

"Children that are coming into care are staying in care longer because there's a higher risk of relapse with their parents," Ms. Turner told The Hill. "I don't think our state was prepared for the number of children coming into care so quickly, so now we have recruitment efforts going, trying to recruit more parents and also train those parents to handle some of the unique needs of the children.

3. With stretched budgets, states like Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are implementing new approaches in an effort to keep parents and children together — even with parents in treatment or recovery.

Massachusetts invested in residential substance treatment programs to keep families together, while Illinois opened a recovery home that can house 18 mothers and their children.

"Having the children there will be a motivation for parents to stick to their treatment plan," Maria Mossaides, who runs Massachusetts' Office of the Child Advocate, told The Hill. "The hope is, once you've finished your treatment and are stable, we can then reintegrate you into your old work and apartment and things that will keep you clean and not create unsafe circumstances for children to be taken away."

More articles on opioids: 

Cigna vows to cut opioid overdoses by 25% in epidemic-stricken communities
IV Tylenol no longer seen as the solution to ending the opioid epidemic
Facebook redirects users looking to buy opioids to crisis help line

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