Besides the inevitable and obvious damage that abusing drugs and/or alcohol can have on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing, there are additional detriments that can arise from prolonged substance abuse and addiction. Tragically, one of the most devastating of such detriments is the loss of child custody.
An article written by Teresa Wiltz that was posted on the website for PBS Newshour reported that many states are being required to take urgent steps to care for neglected children as the “nation’s drug-addiction epidemic is driving a dramatic increase in the number of children entering foster care.”
In Georgia, alone, substance abuse is responsible for children being taken away from their families 40 percent of the time. In response, child welfare agencies throughout the state have become overwhelmed with the amount of families and children needing assistance, resulting in an ongoing need for more foster families, and for more assistance for those foster families.
Wiltz went on to report that, as of five years ago, the number of children who were being placed into foster care was actually declining. However, from 2013 to 2014, the number of kids who were being removed from their families increased by an astounding 25 percent in Georgia.
While the abuse of any type of substance can cause an individual to lose custody of his or her children, professionals throughout Georgia believe that the opioid epidemic, in particular, has been a leading cause for kids entering the foster care system.
Raising Their Children’s Children
In addition to the increase of children entering the foster care system, the drug abuse epidemic has also resulted in grandparents taking on the responsibility of caring for their grandchildren from their sons or daughters who are abusing drugs, are receiving treatment for addictions, or have died from overdosing on substances of abuse.
Another article written by Teresa Wiltz stated that the number of children who are being raised by their grandparents has risen significantly from 2005 to 2015. Wiltz reports, “In 2005, 2.5 million children were living with grandparents who were responsible for their care. By 2015, that number had risen to 2.9 million.”
Prior to entering the foster care system, it is highly advised that child welfare caseworkers attempt to place children with family members. And, oftentimes, that responsibility falls on the grandparents.
While it is preferable for children to remain with family members as opposed to entering the foster care system, the willingness of grandparents to raise their children’s children does not eliminate the devastation that is inflicted upon kids whose parents are suffering from addictions.
In order to continue combating the nationwide drug abuse epidemic, it is imperative that awareness be raised on the importance of seeking and receiving treatment for addictions. Rather than upholding the negative stigma that is often associated with drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, communities need to be joining forces to rally against this disease and help individuals who are battling this crisis get the help that they need.
For treatment centers in Valdosta, Lowndes County, and its surrounding communities, providing education on the services available is a top priority. In doing so, it is the hope of professionals in the addiction field that people will get the help that they need, and that families who may have been torn apart by an individual’s substance abuse can be reunited.