Opioid crisis strains foster system as kids pried from homes

(Photo: Pixabay)

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – The number of foster care cases related to drugs is ballooning as use of heroin and other opioids soars across the U.S.

New foster cases involving parents who are using drugs have hit the highest point in more than three decades of record-keeping. New federal statistics show some 92,000 children entered foster care last year due to a parent’s drug use.

- Advertisement -

Authorities have recorded a 32 percent spike in drug-related cases from 2012 through 2016.

It’s been such a dramatic shift that it reversed a trend that had the foster care system shrinking in size over the preceding decade.

Indiana is among the states with the biggest one-year increase in its foster care population, and judges and social workers there have been struggling to keep up with the onslaught.

Across the U.S., soaring use of opioids has forced tens of thousands of children from their homes, creating a generation of kids abandoned by addicted parents, orphaned because of fatal overdoses or torn from fractured families by authorities fearful of leaving them in drug-addled chaos.

“This isn’t a trickle. This isn’t a wave. It’s a tsunami,” Moores said of a child welfare system grappling with an unprecedented crush of parental drug cases.

From her first full year on the bench in 2006 through last year, the number of filings for children in need of services more than tripled to 4,649 in Marion County, driven largely by cases involving opioids — a glimpse of a problem that has swept across communities of all sizes.

Behind each of those cases is a child subjected to the realities of life amid addiction: of barren fridges, unwelcome visitors and parents who couldn’t be roused awake. Moores is still haunted by the story of a 2-year-old found alone at home with his father’s corpse, a needle still poking from his arm. A neighbor was drawn in by the boy’s relentless wails.

By Friday, the largest pile of cases on Moores’ desk has reached a towering two feet, and she has plodded on in bureaucratic fights to get more judges, more court reporters and more mediators to deal with work in which the despair dwarfs the fleeting moments of hope.

“It seems like there’s a whole generation of people disappearing,” Moores said.