Drug Use Sends Kids to Foster Care: A Report

JourneyPure Staff

August 30, 2019

Foster care has always been a last resort option for children of parents or caregivers who cannot provide the appropriate environment for them to grow up in. Children who are placed into foster care are taken out of situations where they could have experienced further trauma related to issues such as abuse, neglect, and malnourishment. While removing kids from areas where these issues are occurring is helpful in protecting them from harm, being placed in foster care can be traumatic in itself.

Of course, for many of the children who go into foster care, being removed from the home is what is going to keep them safe (and, in some instances, alive). But that does not mean that there isn’t a handful of emotional and psychological issues that develop as a result of that removal.

Unfortunately, a whole new generation of foster kids is developing within the United States as the opioid epidemic and the abuse of other mind-altering substances becomes more popular. A new JAMA study reports that more children are being put into foster care due to drug abuse than ever before.

The Study

Researchers, who collected data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis Reporting System, have determined that out of the almost 5 million children placed into foster care between 2000 and 2017, 1.2 million children were taken from their homes due to parental drug use.

In 2000, roughly 15 percent of children were removed from their homes due to parental drug use as the primary cause. In 2017, that number has more than doubled, with 36percent of foster kids coming from homes where parental drug use led to their removal.

The JAMA published study also reported the following statistics as pertaining to parental drug use and foster care admissions:

  • The majority of foster care admissions related to parental drug use were children ages 5 and under
  • Cases involving drugs saw an increase in children being admitted to foster care who were white, non-urban, and from midwestern communities
  • Between 2012 and 2017, rates of overall admissions into foster care increased by 8percent, partly due to the increase in substance abuse across the country

Drug-Related Reasons for Foster Care Admissions

The biggest driver behind increased foster care admissions is the ever-growing opioid epidemic. Within the U.S., nearly 3 million people are currently addicted to opioids, including prescription painkillers and heroin. The epidemic is so powerful and pervasive that 130 people die each day from opioid overdoses. Within the households of those who are stuck in the thick of the epidemic, children are often collateral damage, which is why there has been such an increase in admissions into foster care.

In addition to the opioid epidemic, there are also several other drug-related reasons why there is such a significant rise in children entering into foster care. Consider the following:

  • Changes in policies that increase the potential for more child removal
  • An increased focus by child welfare professionals
  • Different methods of collecting data

As more attention is being paid to the ripple effect of the opioid crisis and the increased rates of other substance abuse, those in a position of power are able to make the necessary moves to mitigate the damage done to children as a result of this disease.

Drugs and Foster Care

Risks of Having a Parent Who is Addicted to Drugs

Children, regardless of their age, are at significant risk when one or more of their parents are addicted to drugs. Even though the parents are suffering from a disease that is extremely difficult to control, children are often too young to understand that aspect of addiction nor are they able to process the how’s and why’s regarding their parents behaviors.

A child who has one or more parents who is addicted to drugs, there are several risks that that child faces, including the following:

  • Neglect. Even if done unintentionally, parents with children often neglect them because they are so wrapped up in their substance abuse. That neglect is often exhibited when parents fail to feed their children, provide them with the appropriate clothing, and ignore their educational needs, as well as ignore their childrens’ needs for emotional support, love, and guidance. As a result, children can grow up dealing with the effects of trauma, as well as issues related to attachment and empathy.
  • Abuse. Abuse of any kind can be majorly traumatizing for a child, especially when it happens at the hands of a parent. Physical, sexual, and emotional abuse can leave a child feel insecure, unsafe, and in danger at all times, perpetuating feelings associated with panic, anxiety, and depression. Children who are abused by their parents are at higher risk for abusing others as they grow up.
  • Exposure. Simply being exposed to someone who is addicted to drugs and alcohol as a child can be damaging in several ways. Specifically, living with someone who is struggling with addiction can cause children to feel responsible for their parents’ wellbeing and emotional health at a very young age, placing a level of pressure on them that can be too much to manage. Witnessing drugs being abused and the effects it has on one’s parents can make children live in fear of what might happen to them if there is no one there to watch over them. Plus, the feeling of fright when a parent is unable to be roused after abusing drugs can be panic-inducing to a child. Studies show, too, that children who live in a home where drugs have been abused are more likely to abuse drugs in the future.

Children who come from families where drug abuse occurs do not have to suffer from these or other issues as they get older, as foster programs and placements can remedy the situation as much as possible. Additionally, by providing more accessible resources for mental health care and substance abuse treatment, people can receive the care they need in order to raise healthy children.

Get Help Now

The disease of addiction is one that can be difficult to manage, even when in recovery. At JourneyPure Knoxville, we can help you develop a strong foundation for your recovery so that you can continue to achieve success along the way.