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The Link Between the Foster Care System and Opioid Epidemic

The Opioid Epidemic was the result of pharmaceutical companies producing a high rate of prescribed opioid pain relievers, assuring medical communities that users would not become addicted. However, opioids cannot simply be cut out of medication due to their vitality in modern medicine and improving the health of millions.

The problem occurs when people start to become addicted to these prescribed drugs. An estimated 2 million people in the United States suffer from substance abuse disorders from the misuse of opioid, unfortunately, among the 2 million, there are parents who fail to care for their child.

The U.S. foster care system is flooding with children whose parents seem to be having a difficult time overcoming their addictions. This sudden rise of children in the system is putting new financial and housing pressure on an organization already strained. These children are even sleeping in the Department of Child Services office because there are no homes for them that can be quickly found.

The children are enduring traumatic experiences, traveling back and forth from foster homes to reunifying with the parents. The law states that a reasonable effort be made to reunify the parents with their children first. However, many of the parents fall into their old habits and repeatedly lose their children.

Having a drug addiction means being impaired as a parent. Their ability to care for their child is put on hold, but their child’s life is not. We see kids all over the news in the backseat of a car with their parents overdosed in the front seat. However unfit the parents are deemed, the system still pushes for reunification, not taking into the account the trauma children are experiencing in the hands of their parents.  

Roughly 92,000 children entered foster care due to parental drug use in the U.S. in 2016 and roughly 437,500 kids were in foster care.

Even newborns fall victim to this health crisis. When women take opioids during their pregnancy they give birth to drug-dependent babies. Drugs taken during pregnancies pass through the placenta, which supplies the baby with food and nutrients that a mother puts into her system.  Babies who experience prenatal exposures go through painful neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) causing them to excessively cry, sweat, tremor, and seizures.

President Trump’s recent designation of the Opioid Epidemic is not enough. Foster care centers need money to accommodate it’s rapidly growing population and legal reform must be made for the sake of the children.

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Kaltra Zabiku
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Kaltra Zabiku is a 17-year-old immigrant living in Philadelphia. She's interested in writing various articles from public health to politics. This is her first year writing for Affinity Magazine.

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