Drug addiction, especially to opioids, is behind a substantial increase in children entering the foster care system across the U.S. This dramatic surge is causing a crisis that’s forcing many states to change laws, as well as partner with local agencies, in order to care for children in need.
Drug Addiction and Foster Care: A Problem Across the Country
The opiate addiction epidemic currently spreading across this country is one of the worst drug crises in history, killing nearly 27,000 people a year, according to Frontline. It affects people of all races, ages and income brackets, and it’s leaving many states across the nation scrambling to help the unthought-of victims: children.
“In Ohio, where more than 9,900 children are in foster care and nearly half of those taken into custody last year had a parent using drugs, case workers are having a hard time placing children with relatives,” according to PBS. “By the time the children get to foster care…many of the adults in their extended family are addicted to opiates, too.”
Ohio isn’t the only state dealing with this issue. In Georgia, substance abuse is involved 40 percent of the time when children are removed from their homes. In California, specifically San Diego and Orange County, agencies have called for more people to become foster parents to help meet the growing need. Continue reading
Thanks to advances in technology making DNA testing a more affordable option for many, a growing number of people across the country are now using it to trace their genealogy. While many are checking to see if royal blood runs through their veins, adoptees — from private adoption agencies and foster care alike — are using it for a much humbler cause: to find their biological parents.
The Link Between DNA Tests and Foster Care
While many may consider DNA testing as something adoptees from private adoption agencies might use, adoptees from foster care are no different. Many adults who were formerly in foster care may not remember their parents, while others may have been spared details from their adopted parents. In most cases, adopted kids want to know the same thing: where they came from. Continue reading
When we think of why children are placed in foster homes, the first thing that comes to mind is their parents’ inability or unwillingness to care for them. A consultant in Arkansas, however, argues that the reason for a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care has less to do with the behavior of the parents and more to do with the decision making processes of the judges.
According to The Times Record, Arkansas’ Department of Human Services reported a 30% gain in the number of children entering foster care over the previous year. Co-founder of Hornby Zeller Associates, Dennis Zeller, spoke to the legislative Joint Performance Review Committee to give his thoughts on what prompted this dramatic increase.
“Families in Arkansas had not simply all of a sudden gotten worse,” said Zeller. “But the way that decisions were made, whether by the department or by the courts, were different.”
Zeller claims that, in many cases, the motivation for the judges’ decisions to remove children from their homes is rooted in a desire to punish parents rather than keep children safe from imminent danger.
What we’re supposed to be about is promoting the welfare of kids,” Zeller said. “That’s why they call it child welfare. Sometimes we forget that…”
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On September 6th, 2016, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy announced that the state was placing a record number of children in care with relatives. This form of foster care, in which children are placed with direct relatives or close family friends and often relies on a special kinship waiver, is known as kinship care.
Of kinship care, Governor Malloy said:
“We know that the trauma children experience from being removed from their home is significantly diminished if the child lives with someone they know and love – a family member or another person with an established connection. We are building a system for the future and this is another milestone in that effort.”
This system for the future is already making great progress. At the time of his announcement, Governor Malloy boasted that 42% of all placements in the state were kinship placements, the highest level the state ever achieved and close to double the amount of such placements compared to five years ago. In a world where kinship is rapidly becoming the new gold standard for child welfare, these numbers represent tremendous progress in helping minimize the trauma associated with entering the foster care system. Continue reading
In their most recent study, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that 5.4 percent of pregnant women aged 15 to 44 across the country were current illicit drug users, marking an increase from their last study. This statistic only just begins to paint the picture of the epidemic that is running rampant in the country and leaving no group more vulnerable than the unborn, who are subjected to prenatal exposure to drugs. The uptick in substance abuse has resulted in more children being placed in foster care, some of whom entered the system at the time of their birth.
The nation’s drug epidemic has been steadily increasing since the start of the new millennium. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that heroin use increased across the country among almost every demographic since 2004, particularly among women whose usage has doubled. While an increase in any demographic is concerning, an increase among women is cause for alarm when considering the innocent victims of prenatal exposure to drugs. Continue reading
When engaged with the child welfare system, one tends to focus on the negative – the drug-addicted mother, the negligent parent or the unexpected family tragedy that often sends children into foster care. Despite the difficult emotions that come with these situations, it must be remembered that the foster care system is intended as a place of hope, opportunity and growth for these young lives. This quarter, the Foster Success Spotlight falls on Cleo Bell.
Cleo Bell before accepting her award at the FAFS Recognition brunch.
A freshman at Chestnut Hill College, Cleo stands as a shining example of success in the wake of tragedy.
Her biological mother passed an addiction to crack cocaine to newborn Cleo, who was hospitalized for the first eight weeks of her life as a result. Thanks to Cleo’s maternal grandmother, her eventual adoptive mother, June, was informed of Cleo’s birth and circumstances. June jumped at this opportunity to care for Cleo. Continue reading