August 13, 2021 Opioid

Indiana Children In Foster Care Due to Parents’ Opioid Use

As the ongoing opioid epidemic continues to worsen throughout Indiana, more and more youth in this state with parents who use opioids are being placed in foster care. Indiana has seen one of the highest increases in the number of children placed in foster homes since the start of the epidemic.

Here’s a closer look at trends related to foster care and parental opioid use, and how parents can get help today to protect their children from the effects of opioid addiction.

Trends in Foster Care and Parental Opioid Use in Indiana

57,000 children were affected by parental opioid use in 2017

  • In Indiana in 2017, the number of children placed in foster homes increased by nearly 90% from 2005. More than half of these cases were linked to parental substance misuse, according to a study published by the National Council on Family Relations.
  • In Indiana in 2017, a total of 57,500 children were affected by parental opioid use, according to a study published by the United Hospital Fund. This tally includes children living with a parent with opioid use disorder, children who had a parent die from opioid use, children with a parent in prison due to opioid use, children placed in foster care due to parental opioid use, and children addicted to opioids or who accidentally used opioids found in their homes.
  • Nearly 15% of babies born in Indiana in 2017 were exposed to opioids in the womb, which is higher than the national average of 11%. Many of these children end up moving into foster homes if their parents do not seek addiction treatment.
  • Nearly 30% of all opioid overdose deaths in Indiana are among people between 30 and 39, many of whom leave behind young children. Many of these young children are placed in Indiana foster care programs.

How Does Parental Opioid Use Affect Children?

Parental opioid use affects children in ways. Foster care is only one potentially damaging effect of parental opioid use on children.

Foster care may prevent children from being neglected in ways that can lead to illness and death when in the care of parents who use opioids. However, foster care is associated with its own problems.

Children who grow up in the foster care system are subject to higher rates of poor physical and mental health, lower self-esteem, lower academic performance, and higher teen pregnancy rates, reports the American Society for the Positive Care of Children. Foster care children are also more likely to become incarcerated, homeless, or victims of sex trafficking.

According to a study published in Clinical Therapeutics, nearly 33% of mothers who receive treatment for opioid use disorder have had a child removed from the home and placed in foster care.

Parents who use illicit opioids like heroin are far less likely to be reunited with their children than parents who use other substances, including cocaine. Researchers suspect that these low reunification rates may be due to a higher number of stigmas related to heroin use and higher rates of opioid relapse.

Parents who suffer from opioid addiction often display impaired judgment and have difficulty managing their emotions, which can affect parents’ ability to care for and protect their children. They may also suffer frequently from debilitating opioid withdrawal symptoms, such as vomiting, diarrhea, and muscle pain, that result in parental neglect.

Researchers have stated that misusing opioids and other substances around children normalizes drug use and increases their children’s risk for substance misuse later in life. Children raised by parents who misuse drugs are also at higher risk for exposure to domestic violence and unsanitary living conditions and face greater risks of hospitalization than other children.

What Are the Dangers of Using Opioids Around Children?

between 2000 and 2015, there were 18,468 reports from poison control centers of youth exposure to prescription opioids

Children with parents who use opioids are at great risk for accidental poisoning and overdose. Between 2000 and 2015, there were 188,468 reports from poison control centers of youth exposure to prescription opioids.

More than 47% of opioid poisoning cases were caused by buprenorphine. Buprenorphine is a medication used to treat opioid dependence, and also is one of the two main ingredients in another medication for opioid dependence called Suboxone.

Despite the instructions on bottle labels on how to properly store opioids, few parents adhere to these instructions. Some parents leave their opioid prescription bottles on kitchen and bathroom counters, in medicine cabinets, and other places that can be easily found and accessed by their young children and teens.

Opioids are associated with a higher number of overdoses than any other drug. The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that in 2019, opioids were related to 49,860 overdose deaths, which makes up more than 70% of all drug overdoses that occurred that same year. Opioids can easily trigger an overdose when used by anyone with low or no tolerance, especially teens and young children.

How Can Parents Get Help for Opioid Misuse?

Some parents who suffer from opioid addiction are reluctant to seek professional treatment for fear of losing custody of their children, while others are highly motivated to seek treatment to become better parents.

A common barrier parents face when seeking addiction treatment is childcare, especially if residential treatment is recommended. Fortunately, many drug rehab centers offer outpatient rehab programs that provide several hours of behavioral therapy a week so parents can continue living at home to care for their children while recovering from addiction.

Opioid addiction is typically treated with opioid detox and behavioral therapy. Detox helps patients safely withdraw from opioids and usually takes place in a residential setting for up to several days. Some rehab centers offer alternative treatments for parents who must live at home while going through withdrawal. In these instances, parents may be prescribed medications like buprenorphine that can be taken at home to effectively reduce opioid withdrawal symptoms.

Behavioral therapy in an outpatient drug rehab program focuses on helping patients identify and overcome triggers that drive their opioid use and addiction. Rehab programs are customized for each patient based on their unique situations related to addiction.

For example, a patient who started using opioids to relieve anxiety may receive therapy that teaches them how to manage stress and anxiety without using drugs. Employee assistance, 12-step support groups, and family therapy are some of many other programs available to help parents recover from drugs.