Arizona experts say opioid epidemic is driving kids into foster care

Nov 22, 2019, 4:05 AM
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)...
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
(AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

PHOENIX — Arizona experts say the ongoing nationwide opioid crisis is driving children into foster care.

President and CEO of Arizona Helping Hands Dan Shufelt told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday that his nonprofit has seen an increase in the number of children who have parents fighting addiction.

“Foster care is an ongoing issue and the primary driver in foster care is the opioid epidemic,” Shufelt said. “Our numbers continue to rise.”

A study from the United Hospital Fund of New York City released earlier this month showed that about 54,000 Arizona children were affected by the opioid epidemic in 2017. About 8,000 of those children were placed in foster care as a result.

Arizona’s rate of children affected by the opioid crisis was 31 out of every 1,000, higher than the national average of 28.

Shufelt said Arizona Helping Hands has already provided 863 cribs this year to children with parents fighting opioid addiction.

“You can feel these children tremor as you’re holding them trying to overcome this impediment that’s put on their back,” Shufelt said.

The road to getting children out of foster care and overcoming addiction isn’t easy.

Eboni Fields, clinical director for Valley-based addiction center A Better Today Recovery Services, said children get caught in the crossfire of addiction.

ABTRS works with the Department of Child Services at times to help try and reunite parents with their children in foster care.

For Fields, it’s about helping addicts re-learn how to be good parents and not stray from it.

“I think it’s important to be somewhat sensitive to the situation,” Fields said. “We always want to hold people accountable but we want to be mindful of what addiction does to someone’s life.”

KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar contributed to this report.

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Arizona experts say opioid epidemic is driving kids into foster care