How the Opioid Crisis is Destroying Families: America’s National Health Emergency.

Broken families, lost children, and a foster care system that can not meet the increasing demand.

The opioid crisis in America continues to claim more victims and, continues to destroy more families. Each day in the United States, an estimated 142 people die of fatal overdoses, 91 of these from opioids, totaling to a staggering to 52,000 drug overdose deaths in 2015. Public health officials call it the worst drug crisis in the nation’s history. Indeed, the deaths from heroin alone have surged and have claimed more lives in 2015 than homicides by guns.

Make no mistake, the opioid epidemic in America has reached a crisis level.

“This epidemic is a national health emergency,” stated President Donald Trump on October 26, 2017. “ Last year we lost at least 64,000 Americans to overdoses. That’s 7 lost lives per hour in our country. Ending the epidemic will require mobilization of government, local communities, and private organization. The federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts,” the President stated in his address from the White House.

Yet, it is not just those addicted to opioids that suffer. Indeed, over the course of the past decade, the number of children born with neonatal abstinence syndrome has quadrupled over the course of 15 years in the United States. Shockingly, up to 94 percent of babies born to mothers who used opioids while pregnant will suffer symptoms of drug withdrawal. Maine, Vermont and West Virginia lead the nation. Out of every 1,000 babies born in these states, at least 30 are born with NAS. Another study found that babies born the past decade suffering from NAS increased five-fold across the nation. Furthermore, yet another study found that a baby is born suffering from opiate withdrawals every 25 minutes.

Shockingly, up to 94 percent of babies born to mothers who used opioids while pregnant will suffer symptoms of drug withdrawal.

As more and more parents become addicted to opioids, thousands of more children are being placed into a foster care system throughout the nation ― a system that is struggling to properly assist these children due to lack of resources, foster parents, and funding. Indeed, the number of children entering into foster care between 2012–2015 rose by eight percent, due much in part to opioid addictions, and that number continues to climb.

As noted in the book Helping Foster Children in School: A Guide for Foster Parents, Social Workers, and Teachers, one of the reasons children are placed into foster care is due to parental drug abuse. “Those parents who abuse drugs and/or alcohol place their children in danger. This danger may result in neglect, physical abuse, or domestic violence. The larger number of children being placed into foster care, nationwide, is due much in part of an increase in parental drug usage and substance abuse, with Heroin use being the chief drug increasing among parents. Other substance abuse among parents include meth, cocaine and prescription medication abuse.

Five states, in particular, stood out with the largest increases between the years of 2013–2015. These states include Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, and Minnesota, with these states accounting for 65% of the nationwide increase. Georgia had the largest increase during this time, and saw their number of children placed into state care rise from, 7600 in September 2013 to 13,266 in November of 2016. Indiana had the second largest increase, with their numbers increasing by 37 percent from 12,382 in 2013 to 17,023 in 2015. Minnesota saw an increase of children placed into their state foster care by 33% The state of Florida saw an increase of children being placed into care between this time period of 24 percent. Finally, Arizona saw their numbers increase from 17,592 children placed into foster care to 18,657 during the same time period.

Broken families, lost children, and a foster care system that can not meet the increasing demand; a system that can not keep up with this nationwide crisis. As President Trump address the nation on this epidemic, the opioid crisis in America continues to climb, continues to claim more victims, and continues to lead to more deaths, it is the children in the nation that are falling through the cracks. It is the children in the nation that are the hidden victims. It is the children in the nation that are unable to protect themselves from this drug use. “As Americans, we cannot allow this to continue. It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction,” the President acknowledge from the White House, “We can be the generation that ends this opioid epidemic. We can do it.”

Dr. John DeGarmo is an international expert on foster care. He has been a foster parent for 14 years, now, and he and his wife have had over 50 children come through their home. He is a consultant to foster care agencies, child welfare organizations, and legal firms, as well as a speaker and trainer on many topics about the foster care system. He is the author of several foster care books, including Faith and Foster Care, and writes for several publications. He can be contacted at, through his Facebook page, Dr. John DeGarmo, or at The Foster Care Institute.