Report: As parents abuse opioids, their children suffer

June 5, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A report released on Tuesday from the University of New Hampshire is shining a light on those living in the shadows of the state’s opioid epidemic: the children who live with their parents’ addictions.

The study said the number of children or youth removed from parental care increased by nearly 200 from 2012 to 2016, and cases that included a substance-related allegation doubled from 30 percent to 60 percent. The Carsey School of Public Policy conducted the research and consulted several child welfare organizations, including the Division of Children, Youth and Families, and more than 40 experts from New Hampshire.

“It’s a powerful study that underscores an issue that we’ve been largely missing in the conversation about the opioid epidemic,” said Moira O’Neill, director of the state’s Office of the Child Advocate.

The research showed that having a parent abusing opioids can have negative consequences on child development, including emotional or behavioral problems and increased likelihood of the child using drugs by age 14.

Study author Kristin Smith said the opioid epidemic in New Hampshire has strained the children of homes impacted by addiction and the service providers who work with the families. New Futures, a health policy organization, is calling for more legislation to protect these children.

Earlier this year, the state Legislature approved a bill that would provide $5.5 million to help DCYF rebuild its programs. Another bill that passed eliminated language that required families to pay back the cost of voluntary services provided by the agency.

But Rebecca Woitkowski, a policy coordinator for New Futures, said that families are still struggling to find the support they need.

Smith said that a lack of paid family leave and the limited availability of child care are deterrents for parents seeking treatment. The Senate killed a bill in April that would have established a paid family and medical leave program in New Hampshire.

“The legislation was a wonderful first step to see that kind of commitment,” O’Neill said. “We are not finished yet.”

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