BRYAN, Tex. (KBTX) - More children are ending up in the American foster care system, and the culprit seems to be parental drug use.
According to a study from the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, as the opioid crisis swept across the U.S. from 2000 to 2017, there was a 147 percent increase in foster care entries.
In 2000, 15 percent of home removals were due to drug use. In 2017, that number had increased to 36 percent.
A.J. Renold is the executive director of Voices for Children, which is the court-appointed special advocate (CASA) coordinator of the Brazos Valley. She joined First News at Four to share local statistics.
Renold says there has been a dramatic increase in drug use cases in Voices for Children's coverage area; furthermore, there has been an overall increase in the number of children entering foster care.
"In some counties, it's been a 30 percent increase," said Renold. "In other counties, it's been a 100 percent increase."
A couple of years ago, Renold and her team began tracking which of those cases were due, indirectly, to parental drug use.
"Drug use isn't necessarily a reason to come into care," said Renold. "It's usually neglectful supervision, physical neglect, sexual abuse, physical abuse--so drug use isn't actually a reason."
Renold says that when a parent is addicted to drugs, especially one as addictive and all-consuming as meth, the drug becomes the priority, instead of parenting.
"We kept seeing it on affidavit after affidavit when we were appointed to cases, and specifically meth kept coming up," said Renold. "I can say that at least 50 percent of our cases include methamphetamine particularly."
The problem feels big, Renold says, but she and her team are committed to fighting back on behalf of the children of the Brazos Valley.
"Education is huge," said Renold, and we all have our part to play. "Everyone is basically encouraged to report it; we can't do anything about it unless we know there's a problem."