Idaho agency collecting data on drug use and foster care placements

Idaho officials are stepping up efforts to better understand why children end up in foster care.

The Idaho Department of Health and Welfare implemented a new system in June to track reasons behind children entering the foster care system, and data that month shows almost half of Idaho’s foster care placements were due to parental drug use. Officials nationwide have reported an increase in children going into foster care because of parents using drugs, possibly as a result of the opioid crisis.

Researchers say from 2000 to 2017, the number of children being placed in foster care doubled nationwide, and 1.2 million of the 5 million children total saw parental drug use as the primary reason they entered foster care. Researchers saw a steady rise in foster care placements attributable to parental drug use, from around 15 percent in 2000 to 36 percent in 2017. A similar trend is occurring in Idaho.

As of this past June 30th, 46 percent of the 1,800 children in foster care in Idaho were placed there because of a parent’s drug use. Other factors include domestic violence and mental health. In fiscal year 2019, 3,100 Idaho children were placed in foster care, an increase of 600 children in five years.

The number of children in foster care grew by 24 percent in those five years, while the state’s general population only grew by 7.5 percent.

Health and Welfare’s new tracking system adds to the agency’s criteria parental drug use and other factors. Previously, data on why children were entering foster care was tracked by categories such as sexual abuse, neglect, or physical abuse. (Idaho Press)

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