The opiate epidemic has reached every corner of Ohio. State leaders have responded by expanding Medicaid, which makes treatment options available to more people struggling with addiction, as well as by limiting prescriptions and piloting evidence-based practices such as the Maternal Opiate Medical Support (MOMS) program.
Children of parents addicted to opiates are flooding into the state’s child protection system. They are the invisible victims of the epidemic. A recent survey by PCSAO found that half of children taken into custody in 2015 had parental drug use identified at the time of removal, and 28 percent of children removed that year had parents who used opioids, including prescription opiates, heroin and fentanyl. That means nearly a third of children in custody are there because of the epidemic, and that number doesn’t count many children who continue to be served in their homes or who are placed with kin.
The epidemic is largely responsible for an 11 percent increase in children in custody in just the past six years. But during that same period, state funding for child protection declined by 21 percent. The impact on the system has been devastating:
- Children services agencies struggle to find homes for these children, who are often babies in need of a loving family either temporarily while the parent recovers from the addiction or permanently when the parent has died from an overdose or had her/his rights severed.
- More children are remaining in care longer due to the time it takes a heroin addict to recover, thus reducing the number of available foster homes.
- The system’s historic reliance on kinship families has been checked because, too often, multiple members of the same family are addicted.
- Placement costs are sending agencies into a significant deficit.
- Caseworkers are often the first responders to assess homes with opioid-addicted parents. The secondary trauma and burnout they suffer is only compounded by their frustration at not being able to reunify children with their parents because of relapses associated with opioids.
In response, with support from the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and Casey Family Programs, PCSAO has launched Ohio START.
- One year later: Children services remains in severe crisis (December 2018)
- Caseworker Safety Policies, Including Carrying Narcan (March 2018)
- Special Report: The Opioid Epidemic’s Impact on Children Services in Ohio (December 2017)
- Best Interests for Abused and Neglected Children: Working Toward Reunification During the Opioid Crisis (November 2017)
- Opiate Epidemic Child Protection Presentation (Spring 2017)
- Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Children (infographic)
- Executive Summary: Ohio START
- News: Ohio START Pilot Project in Southern Ohio