How America’s Opioid Crisis Is Affecting Children

There is no doubt that addiction can have a major ripple effect. Sure it causes tremendous damage to the person using, but overindulging in drugs like opioids have consequences that extend much further. The Associated Press zeroed in on that a bit further this week, releasing some alarming stats on how America’s prescription painkiller crisis is affecting young children.


The AP piece started off by going straight to the data. One major stat that got our attention was the amount of children being put into foster care. With addicted parents overdosing, getting arrested and losing the ability to keep with their responsibilities, it does make sense that their kids would need to be removed from the home. And in 2016, it was reported that 92,000 children were put in foster care due to drug issues at home. That accounts for more than one third of all U.S. foster cases and represents a 32 percent spike in drug-related foster cases within the past year.


According to the article, that number is expected to go up dramatically by the end of this year. And as AP writer Matt Sedensky explained, it’s something that national leaders should be very concerned about.


“Drugs have always been a major driver of children into the foster care system, but officials haven’t seen something of this magnitude since the wave of crack cocaine use in the 1980s,” Sedensky wrote. “Today’s opioid epidemic is the deadliest surge of drug use in the country’s history. That fact alone leads many to believe it could also amount to the most significant impact the country’s foster care system has ever seen.”


He noted that the increasing amount of foster children could weigh heavily on state and local programs, particularly because there may not be enough foster families to sustain the growth. Spill over could lead to housing children at emergency shelters and hiring many new workers at U.S. child welfare agencies. There is no doubt that issues like this could impact taxpayers and have serious repercussions on the national economy.


Sedensky’s article went on to profile the children who appear to be most at risk. His research showed that while kids of all ages are entering the foster programs, it’s those who are three and younger who make up the lion’s share of applicants. That includes infants and babies as well, which makes for some truly tragic scenarios (particularly when it comes to newborns).


“Babies exposed to opioids by their mother’s use during pregnancy are often born with a condition known as neonatal abstinence syndrome and can go through an agonizing withdrawal,” he added.  “Hospitals around the U.S. have begun testing newborns for drug exposure, and authorities are routinely involved when babies test positive. In many cases, they enter the foster care system in their very first days.”