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Heroin Drug Abuse: Tearing Families Apart

Statistics on children who end up in the foster care system vary from state to state. Increasing numbers of children are entering foster care because their parents are struggling with pain pill or heroin drug abuse or addiction. What are parents to do when they are torn between the vicious cycle of drug addiction and the natural love they feel for their children? What can friends and families do to save young ones from getting lost in the system?

The Partnership for Drug-Free Kids reports that increasing numbers of parents are addicted not only to drugs, but specifically to opiates. In recent years, the number of children who ended up in foster care had decreased, but over the past two years, since 2013, numbers are once again on the rise.

  • In Ohio, the percentage of children with parents abusing heroin or cocaine rose from 19 to 23 percent. Even worse, of those children under one year of age, 70 percent of them had parents needing treatment for cocaine or heroin drug abuse.
  • In Indiana, children’s services officials hired an additional 113 case workers just because of the spike in heroin drug abusers.
  • In Vermont, where the governor devoted an entire State of the State address to the overwhelming epidemic of opiate addiction and heroin drug abuse, almost 19,000 children were placed in the foster care system as of July 2015. Those children in the custody of the state rose by 33 percent in the past year.
  • Arizona officials reported that 59 percent of the children removed form parental care were victims of the heroin drug abuse epidemic. Drug-using parents cause concern because addiction to heroin use or other drugs leads not only to abuse but to neglect.

Specific Problems of Heroin Drug Abuse in Georgia

Heroin drug abuse in Georgia homes was reported last year by Jennifer Jacob Brown and Nick Watson in the In Hall County, which is just an hour away from Blairsville, the 25 available foster homes were ill prepared to handle the increasing numbers of children entering the system because of their parents’ heroin drug abuse. At any given time, they reported, 180 children would be in the system in that county alone.

The director of Georgia’s Family and Children’s Services counted out the many ways that drug addiction, including the huge spike in heroin drug abuse in Georgia, could turn a child’s life into a living hell. They often suffer from domestic violence at the hands of the addicted parents. Neglect afflicts them with hunger and shame. They come into contact with criminal activity when their parents interact with dealers.

Despite these negatives, every time a child is placed into children’s services custody, the initial objective is family reunification. But many of the children are placed far from home, making parental visits difficult, because Hall, Glynn, Bartow, and Floyd Counties have the fewest number of foster care homes throughout the state. That means increasing amounts of children whose parents are heroin drug abusers in Georgia will be left stranded in the system.

Family Drug Court is available in Hall County, and in fact throughout the state of Georgia and the entire country, according to the federal government’s Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG). CWIG reports that in several states almost 60 percent of the children referred to foster care had parents who used drugs or alcohol. It also tells us that of those children who are investigated and left in the home, 29 percent of their parents use alcohol or drugs. Those statistics apply to all substance use disorders and not just heroin drug use, but clearly the system is simply overwhelmed.

Effects of Heroin Drug Abuse on Families

CWIG describes parents affected by drug use as suffering from co-occurring physical or mental impairments, a reduced ability to respond to their children’s needs, difficulty controlling their own anger and impulses, spending household funds on drugs or alcohol, withholding time spent with the children, and periods of hospitalization or incarceration because of their addiction or related criminal activity.

That litany of behaviors describes the parents but how do those behaviors affect the children? Obviously, they are suffering if their parents abuse them physically or emotionally. They go hungry if the parents fail to buy adequate food, and they hang their heads in shame if the parents don’t provide good clothing.

But the emotional damages go beyond the obvious. Children of drug abusers, and especially of parents preoccupied with opiate or heroin drug abuse, learn not to trust adults. At least one of the children will take it upon himself or herself to care for the other children in the family without anyone looking out for their own emotional or physical needs. The addicted parent, sick from withdrawal and disabled by self-pity, depends on the child to get cleaning and cooking done and even provide them with comfort.

All the children in the family become accustomed to hiding family secrets from adults outside the home such as teachers or community adults who might help. They learn that nobody holds them accountable to get homework done or earn good grades. They grow up trusting nobody and failed by the system. Eventually, the children learn to give drugs a try and perpetuate the cycle of poverty and alcohol, cocaine, or heroin drug abuse.

There Is Help

Are you the parent considering heroin drug abuse treatment and finally admitting that you need to take better care of your children? Even if you’ve tried and failed to stop using heroin, you can succeed if you enter a methadone treatment program. Methadone will be prescribed by a doctor, and it will quiet the urges to use and the unbearable withdrawal symptoms that have caused you to relapse in the past.

If you’re the friend or family member of a man or woman who is abusing heroin or other opiates and neglecting their family, you can put the information in front of them so that they know where to get treatment. You can support their effort to get clean using methadone as a medication approved specifically for opiate or heroin drug abuse treatment.

Once the drug-using parent gets into treatment, they will find an assortment of helpful resources available to them. The counselor assigned to their case will steer them toward medical care, financial aid, and legal help, if needed. The counselor will know of resources that can provide gender-specific counseling to help with women’s issues, for example. Parents who seek heroin drug abuse treatment can also be matched with recovery coaches, including host families who will demonstrate the right way to provide effective parenting and maneuver through difficult parental decisions.

It’s a long journey, and not an easy one, but the children are worth it. Pick up the phone and make a call to find out about treatment for heroin drug abuse today.

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