Foster care services are becoming increasingly strained by rampant drug addiction nationwide, which led to the removal of nearly 100,000 children from their homes in 2016.
Officials in Indiana are speaking out after experiencing one of the largest one-year increases of children entering the foster system last year. They warn the situation is rapidly deteriorating and needs urgent reform to better protect child’s rights. Driven primarily by the national opioid epidemic, the number of kids in Indiana foster care increased from 24,935 in 2015 to 29,315 in 2016, reports NPR.
Social services are struggling to keep up with the increases, and officials say outdated policy is causing added suffering among the children. Workers are required by federal law to make “reasonable efforts” to reunify children taken into foster services with their parents.
When it comes to drug abuse, which accounted for 34 percent of all national foster cases in 2016, officials say relapses often put the children back into a dangerous environment.
“The recidivist rate for opioid addiction is somewhere in the 70 percent,” Judge Marilyn Moores, head of the juvenile court in Marion County, told NPR. “We can’t keep parents sober long enough to reunify their children with them. And even those efforts come at great costs to the taxpayers, and they come at even greater costs for the children because being in this system is a trauma for children and these back-and-forth attempts in trying to reunify them with their parents is scarring these children.”
Social services in almost every state across the country are experiencing increases in children needing foster care, and officials are nearing a breaking point.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in 2016 that roughly 437,500 kids were in foster care, and note that number will likely increase due to rising drug abuse rates in 2017.
Roughly 92,000 children entered foster care due to parental drug use in the U.S. in 2016, according to data from the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health and Human Services.