Fast Facts | Opioid Epidemic & Foster Care | Wisconsin Public Television

Fast Facts | Opioid Epidemic & Foster Care

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Premiere Date: 
March 2, 2018

Fast Facts | Opioid Epidemic & Foster Care

As the opioid epidemic surges nationally and locally, the fallout of others impacted by the crisis takes shape.

A report recently published by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty makes the case that there is a strong correlation between the rise in opioid drug abuse and an increase in children entering foster care services in Wisconsin since 2012.

In the report, “Flooding the System: A Study of Opioids and Out-of-Home Care in Wisconsin,” researchers use data released from within the last decade to compare trends between opioid-related hospitalizations to an uptick in the rate Wisconsin children are entering foster care.

There has been a 20 percent increase in the number of Wisconsin children in foster care between 2012 and 2016, which is double the national average. The Department of Children and Families told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that an estimate of over 80 percent of open child welfare cases are “driven by, or complicated by, drug and alcohol abuse.”

One population hit hardest are infants under a year old, with problems sometimes starting before they’re even born. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is when a baby is born addicted to a substance after being exposed to it in the womb. The rate of neonatal abstinence syndrome has quadrupled since 2006.

The report finds a “pretty strong relationship” between rates of neonatal abstinence syndrome and children under a year old entering foster care. More children aged 0-1 were entered into foster care in 2016 than any other age, according to the Department of Children and Families. This subset was also most likely to have caretaker drug abuse listed as the reason they were removed from the home.

A slate of 13 new bills referred to as “Foster Forward” legislation has goals to improve the child welfare system long-term, such as helping children obtain quicker stability in foster care.

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