States Rethink Opioid Response To Cut Foster Care

Many states have seen a surge in the number of children entering foster care systems, an increase tied to the prevalence of opioids. In the past, states considered substance abuse a form of neglect, requiring removal of children from dangerous homes. Now, some states are creating programs aimed at keeping children with their parents during treatment.

The opioid crisis gripping states and communities has spawned a new focus on the way child and family welfare agencies think about addiction, and whether mothers and fathers should be allowed to keep custody of their children as they undergo treatment, The Hill reports. Many states have seen a surge in the number of children entering foster care systems, an increase likely tied to the prevalence of opioids. In the past, states considered substance abuse a form of neglect, requiring removal of children from dangerous homes. Now, some states are creating programs aimed at keeping children with their parents during treatment. They hope that approach will encourage parents to seek the help they need, without adding the trauma caused by removing children from their homes. “Children do better when they’re with family,” said Wendi Turner of the Ohio Family Care Association.

In Nebraska, where officials cite methamphetamines as the primary drug menace, the state Division of Children and Family Services has launched a “mom and me” program that allows children to join their mothers in treatment facilities. “Mom can get the necessary substance abuse treatment she needs without being subject to the trauma of a removal as well,” said the agency’s Matt Wallen. New Jersey is one state that does not equate substance exposure with child abuse. That gives the state flexibility to determine whether a parent is a risk to their child. Conflating substance abuse with child abuse is “impounding trauma upon trauma,” said Jason Butkowski of the state Department of Children and Families. “[We] don’t want to stigmatize someone who is currently facing addiction and looking for recovery options and recovery services,” Butkowski said, adding that ” some folks aren’t reaching out for services because addiction is such a charged term.”

from https://thecrimereport.org