A report released Tuesday by the nonprofit Child Trends revealed that for the sixth consecutive year, 2017 saw a significant rise in the number of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse or drug seeking behavior.
According to the report, 131 out of every 100,000 children in America ends up in foster care because one or both of their parents’ behavior in connection to drug use, representing a “5 percent increase from the previous fiscal year and a 53 percent increase since FY 2007.”
The study ascertained the findings by combining statistics from several organizations and government agencies, most notably the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect (NDACAN), an initiative U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Cornell University. The HHS also provides their own statistics through the Children Bureau. Lastly, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a privately funded nonprofit, also provides data on children and families throughout the country.
In addition, the study also found that “six states and territories – Puerto Rico, Wyoming, New York, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Ohio – saw the largest rate increases.” Of all fifty states, Puerto Rico, and the District of Columbia, 17 states and territories saw rate decreases, 3 saw no percentage change, and 32 saw rate increases. In Ohio alone, the percentage of children entering foster care due to parental drug abuse jumped by 29 percent, surpassed only by Puerto Rico, Wisconsin, and New York.
The study did not specify what type of drugs were used in each instance. The reason for this is, “federal law does not require states to specify the type of drug abuse involved in a child’s removal from the home. While many will be quick to blame the current opioid epidemic for these increased numbers, the answer might be more complex. Ohio, a state which has been hit heavily by the opioid crisis, did see a significant increase in the rate of children needing foster care due to drug use. However, in Washington D.C. the rate actually decreased by 17%, despite the fact that they have massive spikes in citizens affected by opioid use. While not state nor study has an comprehensive solution to the problem, Ohio has already taken steps in the hope of addressing the issue.
The day Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) was sworn into office, he immediately passed a series of executive orders. Among these, Executive Order 2019-04D, moved “the Ohio Office of Families and Children under the oversight of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services. The intention was to improve foster care in the state and lower turnover rates for caseworkers.” Additionally, when DeWine was serving as Attorney General of Ohio, he started the “Ohio’s Sobriety, Treatment and Reducing Trauma (Ohio START) Pilot Program.” According to DeWine, the goal was to:
Children with a parent or parents addicted to drugs tend to stay in foster care longer, and they enter foster care having experienced significant trauma. While mom and dad are high, these kids may go days without food or supervision. They may have witnessed a parent inject drugs, overdose, or even die…By creating this program, we hope to help these 14 counties give the silent victims of the opioid epidemic – the children – the best care possible, while also helping their parents recover from their addiction.
Despite these reforms, a report from the Public Children’s Services Association of Ohio estimated that 20,000 children will be in foster care by 2020.
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Andrew Shirley is a reporter at Battleground State News and The Ohio Star. Send tips to [email protected].