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Opioid epidemic’s collateral damage: Children and caregivers need more support

By | April 27, 2018

Board Secretary and former Stoneleigh Fellow David Rubin shares the impact of the opioid epidemic on children and families in his new Philadelphia Inquirer op-ed.

As our nation continues to reel from a decades-long opioid epidemic that has devastated families and communities, the public health response has focused on reducing fatal overdoses and treating addiction. Those are of course necessary and noble actions, but we must also be dedicated to strengthening supports for children in these families – the bystanders to this epidemic who are just as impacted yet rarely seen, save for haunting images of being stranded in minivans while their parents succumb to overdoses in the front seat.

Bringing these children out from behind the curtain is not easy because there are few statistics that characterize who they are. Perhaps our clearest lens is through the foster care system, which is responsible for removing children from unsafe home environments. Between fiscal years 2012 and 2016, our nation saw a 10 percent increase in the number of children in foster care, and in FY16 22,000 more children newly entered foster care than in FY12. We don’t know yet how much of this increase is directly related to the opioid epidemic – the federal Children’s Bureau only began reporting data on circumstances for a child’s removal in FY15. However, in just one year since the reporting began, the number of children removed from their homes due to parental drug abuse increased by seven percent.

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