Many West Virginia residents may think that the opioid epidemic affects primarily the people who use these drugs. However, many children are also affected by this epidemic.
According to STAT, children may sometimes inhale or ingest the substances their parents are addicted to, and infants may go through withdrawal if a woman took opioids while she was pregnant. Additionally, children living with addicts may experience high stress levels and uncertainty in their daily lives. Some may also be obligated to care for their siblings if a parent is unable to because of an addiction. As these children grow up, they sometimes experience the same factors that led their parents to take these drugs, and this may lead some children to develop their own opioid addiction. People between the ages of 25 and 44 account for roughly half of the opioid deaths. Many people in this age range may have children.
Many children have entered the foster care system because of the opioid epidemic. West Virginia Public Broadcasting says that while the state usually has about 4,000 children in foster care, that number has risen drastically. The number of children in foster care was almost 6,400 in 2017. One representative of a human resources department says that in order to keep children out of the foster care system, people need to focus more of their attention on an entire family and not just the person struggling with a drug addiction.
It can be difficult to determine just how many of the children entering the foster care system have been affected by the opioid epidemic. Sometimes people may remove children from their home because of parental neglect, and a parent's opioid addiction may not always be reported or seen as a factor in the neglect.