MONDAY, July 15, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The opioid epidemic appears to be literally tearing families apart.
Children are being taken out of their homes at alarming rates because their parents are abusing drugs, a new study shows.
The number of kids placed in foster care in the United States due to parental drug use has more than doubled over the past two decades, rising to nearly 96,700 in 2017 from about 39,100 in 2000.
“The number of foster care entries related to drug use has been increasing for quite a long time,” noted lead researcher Angelica Meinhofer. She’s an instructor of health care policy and research at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City.
This increase began even as the overall foster care caseload in the United States steadily declined between 2000 and 2012.
However, in recent years the nation began to see the overall numbers start to increase again, researchers said in background notes. From 2012 to 2017, kids living in foster care increased by 12%, and children entering foster care increased by 8%.
Meinhofer and her colleagues suspected that the opioid epidemic might be fueling the growth in foster care, and turned to a federally mandated database that collects case-level information on all kids in foster care in the United States.
“One of the variables collected is whether children were removed from their home for parental drug use,” Meinhofer said.
Nearly 5 million foster care entries occurred between 2000 and 2017, with about a quarter attributable to parents using drugs, the researchers found.
Both the number and proportion of entries due to drug use increased during that period. In 2000, nearly 15% of about 270,000 removals were prompted by drugs, compared with about 36% of about 267,000 removals in 2017.
This occurred even as foster care entries due to other household troubles steadily declined, results showed.
Children entering foster care due to parental drug use were more likely to be 5 years old or younger, white, and from the Southern region of the United States, researchers found.