Locating safe homes in which to place children who are in need of foster care has always been a top priority for Santa Fe County’s Children, Youth and Families Department (CYFD). Yet, within the past two years, that need has become increasingly difficult to fulfill.
Cynthia Miller, who writes for The New Mexican, reported that, “The number of kids in foster care in the county has grown by more than 77 percent in the past couple of years, rising to 55 so far in fiscal year 2017 from 31 in fiscal year 2015.”
The disturbing trend of increasing numbers of children entering the foster care system has been seen across the United States. Miller reports that between 2013 and 2015, the nationwide percentage of children living in foster care rose by 6.7 percent. In New Mexico alone, however, the increase is even more staggering, totaling close to 20 percent.
Reasons for the Increase
There are a number of circumstances that can lead children to needing to enter the foster care system. Officials who work in child welfare services have noted that the increase in drug abuse and addiction is rapidly becoming one of the most prominent reasons why children are being removed from their homes.
The abuse of alcohol or any type of drug can bring about countless detriments, and the effects of ongoing substance use and addiction can tear families apart. But while an addiction of any kind can result in children being taken away from their families, the drastic increase in the abuse of opioid drugs seems to have directly impacted the increase in the number of kids entering foster care.
Throughout the nation, the abuse of opioids has become an epidemic, tainting the lives of families in seemingly every city and county, including Santa Fe. Opioid substances include heroin and prescription painkillers like Vicodin, OxyContin, Percocet, and numerous others. The consumption of these highly addictive substances can rapidly wreak havoc on the lives of users, which will, inevitably, begin to affect the lives of the users’ family members as well. And, as substance abuse is rarely isolated to one family member, when a child is taken away from his or her parents, allowing him or her to be placed within a relative’s home is not always feasible.
The Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) for Fiscal Year 2015 noted that, regarding the most recent placement setting for children who are entering the foster care system, only 30 percent were residing in a relative’s home, while 45 percent were placed in a non-relative foster family home.
According to AFCARS, the children who make up the remaining percentages are living in the following settings:
- 4 percent – Pre-Adoptive Home
- 6 percent – Group Home
- 1 percent – Supervised Independent Living
- 8 percent – Institution
- 5 percent – Trial Home Visit
Sadly, the remaining one percent of children, which totals 4,648 youth, are reported as having run away.
In Santa Fe County’s CYFD office, they have turned a room that was once an office into a makeshift child’s bedroom. Miller noted that the workers have made every effort to make it a comfortable place for children who do not have an immediate place to go after being removed from their homes. Here, they can wait until a foster family is available to take them.
The devastation that these circumstances can inflict on the lives of children is immense, often even traumatizing. It for this reason, among many others, that individuals who are trapped in a pattern of abusing drugs and/or alcohol should seek out the treatment that is available for helping them to put an end to their addictions. In Santa Fe, there are options for addiction treatment that can help reverse this tragic epidemic and keep children safely in their homes.