WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) - More than 58 percent of children in foster care in Brunswick County were placed in Department of Social Services custody due to parental substance abuse, according to a report by NC Child.
In 2017, more than 16,500 children in the state lived in state custody. The report states that parental substance misuse was the leading factor for 39 percent of children that entered foster care during the the 2016-17 fiscal year in N.C.
"Substance use disorder is a tragic disease that can tear apart families and leave children without stable, nurturing homes. The opioid epidemic is driving this crisis to a new level in our state," said Whitney Tucker, research director at NC Child.
Percentage of children in foster care that were placed due to parental substance misuse in area counties:
- Bladen Co. 25%
- Brunswick Co. 58.3%
- Columbus Co. 42.5%
- New Hanover Co. 41%
- Pender Co. 27.3%
The amount of time that children have remained in state custody also has increased significantly. The median length has gone from just under a year (362 days) in the fiscal year 2000 to more than 15 months (478 days) in 2016. For children under the age of six, the median length is nearly 17 months (512 days).
To help battle this issue, the author of the report suggested closing the Medicaid coverage gap for working families who can't afford private health insurance but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid.
"Without expanded access to the program, limited funding for opioid and other substance use treatment leaves uninsured North Carolinians without the care they need to protect their health and household stability as the state sinks further into the opioid crisis," the report states.
Here's a copy of the study: