Substance Abuse By Parents Leads To Increase In Foster Care Caseloads


In states ravaged by the heroin epidemic, officials say substance abuse by parents is a major reason for the growing number of children in foster care, Stateline reports. In Clermont County, east of Cincinnati, more than half the children placed in foster care this year have parents who are addicted to opiates. The number of children living in foster care started rising in 2013 after years of decline. Last year, about 415,000 children were living in foster care, according to federal statistics released last week. Fifteen percent of them hadn't yet passed their second birthday. It's not clear how many child-welfare cases nationwide involve parents abusing drugs or alcohol, said Nancy Young of the federally funded National Center on Substance Abuse and Child Welfare. She suspects that most cases do: “That's what all the caseworkers and judges are saying.”

Numbers emerging from the states show how rising heroin use is putting pressure on child-welfare systems. In Ohio, 23 percent of child-welfare cases investigated in 2013 involved heroin or cocaine, up from 19 percent in 2010. Seventy percent of children less than a year old who were placed in foster care that year had parents who were using those drugs, said the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, a coalition of county child-welfare agencies. In neighboring Indiana, Gov. Mike Pence linked the spike in children moving through the child-welfare system—18,925 as of July—to drug abuse, especially heroin, and hired 113 new caseworkers this year to help handle the load. In Vermont, substance abuse was cited in more than one-third of phone calls to the state's child-protection hotline. Last year, 1,326 Vermont children were in state custody, up 33 percent in one year.

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