Over the past decade, we have watched as a legitimate painkiller prescription has inadvertently become the catalyst for addiction. We saw laws change to protect patients from falling victim to prescription drug abuse or overprescription only to find that rates of heroin abuse and addiction increased beyond what we have ever seen before. As we fought to manage this growing problem, the introduction of fentanyl into the heroin supply, increasing its potency exponentially – and with it, the potential for overdose – pushed the rates of drug overdose deaths up to an average of 142 a day, according to New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, the head of Trump’s drug commission. Governor Christie said those numbers added up to “9/11 scale loss every three weeks.”
Unfortunately, the fallout of this epidemic is not limited to the victims who lose their lives to substance use and abuse. It also devastates those who love and depend on them.
The foster care system, already strained, is now completely overwhelmed by the number of children whose parents are or were facing drug addiction. Whether the children have lost one or both parents to drug overdose or the state removed them due to unsafe living conditions caused by parents or caregivers living in active addiction, they are now in the system, and that system is ill-equipped to help, especially in rural areas.
John Sciamanna is the Vice President of Public Policy at the Child Welfare League of America. He says: “It’s pretty much every state — except maybe four or five — that have seen an increase in the number of children in foster care. What you are seeing now is just a straining of the system.”
From 2012 to 2013, the number of kids in foster care increased 18 percent, and since then, it has only continued to climb. There are not enough social workers to manage the increased number of cases, families to take in the kids, or funds in the state budget to cover the increased cost. It is a problem that is hurting California now and will have a ripple effect into the future as this generation of children struggling inside the system comes of age.
Can You Help?
If you are living in a home that is safe and free from substance abuse issues, then you may be a great candidate to be a foster parent. There is a lot to know about the process in California, but it is definitely worth looking into if you are able to provide a stable and loving home to a kid – or kids – in need. Take a look at the following links to see if fostering is a good fit for you:
- Information about kids who need care in California
- How to contact an agency
- Costs associated with fostering and adoption
- Licensing requirements for foster parents
- Licensing requirements for adoption
- Contacts for parent support groups
It is not an easy job by any means, but it can be a lifesaver to kids who are scared and in need of a place to call home.
Do You Need Help?
If someone in your family is living with an addiction and there are children who are at risk as a result, the stakes are higher than they would be otherwise. Children change the game and add urgency to the situation that cannot be ignored. Your loved one may not have the option of refusing to get help if it means that their children will continue to be living in a home with access to deadly substances. Not only can it mean an accidental overdose for a small child if they happen upon the drug accidentally, but it can mean danger due to neglect when the parent is too intoxicated to take care of the child or children effectively.
If you need help intervening on behalf of children in your family, local law enforcement and Child Protective Services can help. Do not be afraid to make a call if it means helping a child get to a safe place, and you can do it anonymously if you feel safer.
Are there children or parents in your family that are struggling due to untreated addiction? The time to act is now.