The opioid epidemic doesn’t seem to be slowing down, as a matter of fact, it seems to be speeding up. They say that addiction is a family disease, for no other addiction does this ring truer than with opioid addiction. Families are being torn apart all over our country.
What Happens Once CPS Is Involved
Typically when a child is removed from a parents custody, CPS ( Child Protective Services ) tries to place the kids with a family member. They are finding that multiple family members are abusing opioids in the same family. This gives CPS no other choice but the place the children into foster care until the parents meet a strict set of guidelines.
- a history of clean drug tests
- parenting classes
- holding a job
- securing housing that is acceptable to the state
- completing a drug treatment program
- continued attendance at aa/na meetings
The parents have only one year to prove themselves fit to care for their kids. If they fail to complete the goals before the year is up they lose custody of their kids forever.
Children of parents addicted to opiates are flooding into the state’s child protection system. They are the invisible victims of the epidemic. A survey by PCSAO found that half of the children in custody in 2015 had drug use listed as the reason of removal. Also, 28 percent of children removed that year had parents who used opioids, including prescription opiates, heroin and fentanyl. That means nearly a third of children in custody are there because of the epidemic. That number doesn’t count many children who continue to be served in their homes or who are placed a family member.
The impact on the system has been devastating:
- Children services agencies struggle to find homes for these children, who are often babies in need of a loving family either temporarily while the parent recovers from the addiction or permanently when the parent has died from an overdose or had her/his rights severed.
- More children are remaining in care longer due to the time it takes a heroin addict to recover, thus reducing the number of available foster homes.
- The system’s historic reliance on kinship families has been checked because, too often, multiple members of the same family are addicted.
- Placement costs are sending agencies into a significant deficit.
- Caseworkers are often the first responders to assess homes with opioid-addicted parents. The secondary trauma and burnout they suffer is only compounded by their frustration at not being able to reunify children with their parents because of relapses associated with opioids.
We need foster parents willing to give good homes to children victims of the opioid epidemic. We need more drug treatment beds available for people without insurance. Maybe we are in the midst of an addiction epidemic, not just an opioid one.