Opioids are overloading the Virginia foster care system

Opioids are overloading the Virginia foster care system

Is the opioid epidemic impacting the foster care system?

by Jemie Lee of WVEC

VIRGINIA (WVEC) — Last year in Virginia, over 1,100 Virginians lost their lives to opioid abuse, and experts say the problem is affecting our foster care system.

The U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration says a rising number of children are being removed from homes across the country where caretakers are accused of using opiates. Lawmakers and experts are rushing to find solutions.

“The opioid epidemic is really a national crisis, and it is touching so many families all across our country including right here in Virginia,” Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring said.

According to the CDC, 91 Americans die from an opioid overdose. But even more troubling–these numbers are affecting some of the most vulnerable.

Is the opioid epidemic impacting the foster care system?

“Last year in 2016, almost 800 babies were born in Virginia exhibiting withdrawal symptoms,” Herring said.

Making the problem worse, experts say they’re seeing a shortage in foster parents and homes.

Anecdotally, our local agencies tell us that they have a more difficult time recruiting foster families.Director Carl Ayers, Virginia Department of Social Services

13News Now pulled the data for Virginia, which shows that the number of children in the foster care system has actually decreased over the years. But more and more children in Virginia are being pulled from homes because their parents are using drugs. That number has increased by almost 20 percent over the last 10 years.

Virginia foster care stats

“It’s quite challenging for the foster parent. Many times the children cry incessantly—you’re unable to soothe them, and they really struggle in the beginning of their lives,” Ayers said.

Virginia doesn’t break the numbers down by specific drug, but experts know that opioid abuse is a growing problem in the state and efforts are being made to combat the epidemic.

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