Foster care experts: Opioid-impacted kids on the rise

HARTFORD -- Across the country, foster agencies said they can’t keep up with an influx of kids who were either born with drugs in their system or saw their parents doing drugs. The Department of Health and Human Services said the number of child welfare cases jumped 10 percent from 2012 to 2016 after years of declining, and while the agency said it doesn’t have enough empirical data to prove opioids are the cause of that jump nationwide, it said increased substance abuse as a whole is the driving factor in many parts of the country. Some social workers, though, were more blunt in their assessment.

"It's largely opioids,” said Tami Silverman, the CEO of the Indiana Youth Institute, “that's been the difference maker in the past few years that have contributed to that increase."

Some case workers said opioids create a double-whammy of a problem, because opioid-related cases, on average, tend to be more complex as well as more common.

"Most parents that do have substance abuse addictions, their children end up staying in care a lot longer or staying in care until they age out," said Kelly Cline, a foster care therapist.

Federal health officials are preparing to spend nearly $2 billion that was authorized by Congress to help states fight the crisis. In March, the White House introduced a multi-faceted approach to fight the epidemic, but critics claim the administration never asked Congress for more badly-needed funding, and has focused too much on enforcement and not enough on treatment. Some child care experts said that’s resulted in a lot of kids being left behind.

“They will have behaviors that people see as problematic because that's what they were used to in the home," said Kenderlin Kelly, a family resource specialist.