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Drug Abuse Playing Larger Role in Demand for Foster Care

Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed the Foster Care Improvement Act to increase accountability of the foster care system. (jndugan/Twenty20)
Last year, Idaho lawmakers passed the Foster Care Improvement Act to increase accountability of the foster care system. (jndugan/Twenty20)
May 31, 2018

BOISE, Idaho – The U.S. Senate is recognizing Thursday as National Foster Parent Appreciation Day.

As of 2016, about 1,500 children in Idaho were in foster care out of about 400,000 nationwide.

The number of Idaho children in foster care has gone down over the past decade, but the opioid crisis is becoming a big influencer on the care system.

Christine Tiddens, community outreach director for Idaho Voices for Children, says parental drug abuse was the reason for 63 percent of foster care cases in the state over the past year.

Unfortunately, she says, many Idaho families in need lack access to affordable health care options.

"As the opioid crisis and other substance use is becoming more prevalent, our system of treatment is really lacking, and it's a major issue that's facing our families, especially our families who are involved in our foster care system," she states.

In February, Congress passed the Family First Prevention Services Act. The law provides more funding for programs such as parenting classes, substance abuse treatment and mental health services – all designed to prevent children from being placed in foster care.

Last year, Idaho passed the Foster Care Improvement Act, which keeps siblings connected in foster care and establishes more accountability for the system.

Jaia Lent, deputy executive director of the children and families advocacy organization Generations United, says foster care is only a small part of the picture.

She says for every one child in foster care with relatives, there are 20 being raised outside of foster care with grandparents or other relatives.

Lent hopes that as policymakers increase support for foster families, they also will continue to support relatives caring for children outside the system.

"The positive news about relying on relatives is that we know that children actually do better when they are placed with supported relatives versus non-relatives," she states.

Lent says children who can't remain under their parents' care for whatever reason often experience serious trauma, but she says research shows children who are able to stay with other family members typically show better mental and behavioral health.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - ID