Of all the victims of drug and alcohol abuse, perhaps the most affected are the children who are taken away from their addicted parents. While drug use isn’t necessarily a cause for losing custody of a child, it can sometimes be equated with or lead to abuse. Most states define child abuse as an act or failure to act that results in a physical injury (which was not an accident) or sexual abuse of a child. The definition of neglect can vary, but will typically include the denial of food, shelter, supervision, clothing, or medical care. In some states, parental substance abuse alone could be considered child abuse or neglect. As a result of all the children who are removed from neglectful and/or abusive parents, the foster care system in the United States is under considerable strain.
Budgets for foster care – not overwhelming at the best of times – are stretched to their limits with the influx of children. At the same time, fewer people are willing to step up and be foster parents. Some of this is due to the particular challenges that children of substance abusers can face, particularly if they were born with a drug addiction themselves. These so-called drug babies might have a variety of physical effects, such as facial or limb deformities and heart defects, which can be costly to deal with. They’re also likely to have behavioral problems and learning disabilities and require special educations. According to a 2002 article in the Journal of the American Medical Association, children exposed to cocaine in the womb were twice as likely to have cognitive delays. Exposure to heroin can also cause long-term learning disabilities. Cocaine exposure can also cause aggressive behavior and substance abuse in young boys. Marijuana increases the risk of depression in children.
Some children who come from homes where substance abuse is prevalent also have problems with violence. When the only way they know to deal with problems is with aggression, they might be violent with classmates, teachers, and even the foster parents. Those children who have suffered sexual abuse will also have special needs – some react by fearing anything to do with sex, while others will become defiantly promiscuous. Foster children might also be angry about being taken away from their parents. No matter how bad the situation, many kids feel a certain loyalty to their family, and there’s like to be a few instances of “You’re not my mother/father” when foster parents attempt to assert authority.
In 2012, 397,000 U.S. children were in foster care, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. By 2015, that number had risen 8 percent, to 428,000. Experts attribute much of this growth to the opioid epidemic.
If you or a loved one need help with quitting drugs or alcohol, consider Asana Recovery. We offer medical detox, along with both residential and outpatient programs, and you’ll be supervised by a highly trained staff of medical professionals, counselors, and therapists. Call us any time at (949) 438-4504 to get started.