Monday, September 19, 2016

Ohio and Scioto County -- Children Are the "Invisible" Victims of Drug Abusing Parents


"The children really are the invisible victims," said Scott Britton of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. 
(Rita Price. “Parents’ heroin addictions put too many kids in foster care.”  
The Columbus Dispatch. September 19, 2016.) 
A recent survey by the association found that at least half of all children taken into custody last year had parents using drugs, a majority of which were opiates. 93.5 percent of agencies say heroin and other opiates are a serious problem in their communities.

The Columbus Dispatch reports after a decade of steeply declining foster-care rates, Ohio now has about 14,000 children in agency custody -- an increase of nearly 13 percent since the end of 2012, which doesn't include the likely faster-growing number of kids taken in by relatives.

In addition, Ohio's hospitalization rate for neonatal abstinence syndrome – a set of symptoms suffered by infants born dependent on drugs – has soared from 14 for every 10,000 live births in 2004 to 134 per 10,000 by 2014.

As federal and state legislative action has largely focused on opioid-prescribing practices and treatment for addicts, little attention has turned toward the child-welfare system. Lorra Fuller, head of the Children Services agency in Scioto County, confirms, "We have to keep children safe, and we rob Peter to pay Paul to do it."

The State of Ohio, which already ranks last in the nation for child-protection funding, has not sent county agencies new money to aid in the fight.

The agency has a $3 million budget that keeps taking hits, from the loss of more than $700,000 in state and federal funding by 2010 to a $16,000 penalty this year for not meeting the federal standard on parent-child visitation rates. Fuller said she can afford to pay local foster parents only $27.50 a day.

"More staff could help with these high-needs cases," she said. "We are in homes once a month. We need to be there at least weekly, maybe three times in a week."

Scioto County has some of the lowest property values in the state; thus, tax-levy revenue also is low. The agency had 80 children in custody four years ago and 173 by early this summer. More than 50 are younger than 2.

Rita Price of the Dispatch shares Fuller's words ...

“There would be fewer, Fuller acknowledges, if she hadn't drawn a line in the sand four years ago. 'I decided that if mom was positive on delivery and baby was positive and there was not a prescription, we were going to take custody,' Fuller said.

“Before 2012, caseworkers first might have worked with the mothers to offer treatment, services and support as part of an 'alternative response' approach that aims to reduce foster-care placements.

“But in the face of a full-blown opiate epidemic, 'alternative response didn't work for us,' Fuller said. 'We just weren't being effective as a child-welfare agency by leaving those children out there. What we saw was that these babies that weren't removed were coming into the system as 1- and 2-year-olds for neglect.'

“Although strategies and practices vary among Ohio's 88 county Children Services agencies, there is broad agreement that the system is facing a terrible foe — one that wrecks families, drives up costs, demoralizes workers and can drag cases out for years.

"'Unfortunately, we're not seeing great success with treatment and recovery,' said Catherine Hill, executive director of Athens County Children Services in southeastern Ohio. 'It's taking a whole generation of our young parents.'”

(Rita Price. “Parents’ heroin addictions put too many kids in foster care.”  
The Columbus Dispatch. September 19, 2016.) 

The Bottom Line

Responsible parents must provide loving, stable homes for their children. Being a parent is a full-time job that requires sobriety. Parents who shirk these responsibilities risk not only losing their children to Children Services but also losing their children to accidental injury and death.
Addicted parents define the model of irresponsible adults. Although they may struggle to maintain routine and structure in the home, the financial cost of drug use, itself, often prevents them from providing adequate food, housing and clothing for their children. When under the influence, they may also ask their children to assume adult roles such as cleaning, cooking and caring for younger siblings. This added responsibility in formative years can be devastating to a young life.

Furthermore, the effects of drugs can lead to inconsistent parenting. For example, a parent who is addicted to drugs might have difficulty maintaining a regular system of rules and consequences for breaking those rules. This can lead to extreme behavioral difficulties.

And, according to the National Center on Addictions and Substance Abuse, when children grow up in homes with parents who abuse drugs, the children are at a higher risk of becoming addicts themselves. This increased risk of substance abuse comes from the tremendous environmental stress associated with living with a parent who is an addict.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) confirms that risk factors can increase a person’s chances for drug abuse, while protective factors can reduce the risk. The table below describes how risk and protective factors affect people in five domains, or settings, where interventions can take place.

Risk Factors
Protective Factors
Early Aggressive Behavior
Lack of Parental Supervision
Parental Monitoring
Substance Abuse
Academic Competence
Drug Availability
Anti-drug Use Policies
Strong Neighborhood Attachment


The more risks a child is exposed to, the more likely the child will abuse drugs. Some risk factors may be more powerful than others at certain stages in development, such as peer pressure during the teenage years; just as some protective factors, such as a strong parent-child bond, can have a greater impact on reducing risks during the early years. An important goal of prevention is to change the balance between risk and protective factors so that protective factors outweigh risk factors.

We must protect the children of Scioto County, the children of Ohio, and the children of America against drug abuse. It is unfortunate, often unthinkable, but that often means protecting children from their addictive parents. Research-based prevention programs focus on intervening early in a child’s development to strengthen protective factors before problem behaviors develop.

I know of no stronger incentive for prevention than recognizing the risk of losing precious loved ones to substance abuse. It is time for dependent parents to acknowledge and accept the risk of losing their most beloved possessions to their precarious behavior. No longer should an individual parent falsely believe that their addiction is a personal matter with strictly personal consequences. The truth is that addiction destroys families and creates cycles of destructive behavior that last for generations. 
I am reminded of Jamie O'Hara's song made famous by George Jones. Although the tune actually deals with love and heartache and not with drug abuse, the “cold, hard truth” of acceptance and responsibility pulls at the heartstrings and draws a significant parallel.

"The Cold Hard Truth"
You don't know who I am
But I know all about you
I've come to talk to you tonight
About the things I've seen you do.

I've come to set the record straight
I've come to shine the light on you
Let me introduce myself
I'm the cold hard truth.

There is a woman we both know
I think you know the one I mean
She gave her heart and soul to you
You gave her only broken dreams

You say your not the one to blame
For all the heartaches she's been though
I say you're nothing but a liar
And I'm the cold hard truth.

All your life that's how it's been
Lookin' out for number one
Takin' more than you give
Movin' on when you're done.

With her you could have had it all
A family and love to last
If you had any sense at all
You'd go and beg her to come back.

You think that you're a real man
But you're nothing but a fool
The way you run away from love
The way you try to play it cool

I'm gonna say this just one time
Time is running out on you
You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth.

You best remember me my friend
I am the cold hard truth....

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