The U.S. foster care system is overwhelmed, in part because America’s opioid crisis is overwhelming. Thousands of children have had to be taken out of the care of parents or a parent who is addicted.
Indiana is among the states that have seen the largest one-year increase in the number of children who need foster care. Judge Marilyn Moores, who heads the juvenile court in Marion County, which includes Indianapolis, says the health crisis is straining resources in Indiana.
“We’ve gone from having 2,500 children in care, three years ago, to having 5,500 kids in care. It has just exploded our systems,” Moores says.
While laws in all U.S. states require that child welfare agencies make “reasonable efforts” to reunify parents with their children, Moores says that process can be especially traumatic for children whose parents often relapse.
She says that more legal consideration should be paid to the child’s rights and safety and that “right now, that balance does not tip legally in favor of the child.”
Earlier this year, President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. But that designation “didn’t come with money,” Moores says. “And that is sadly what the necessity is.” She says reform is needed, and it should focus on “how much in the way of resources should be devoted to trying to reunify children with parents who cannot conquer their addiction.”