by guest blogger Cat McGrath
The number of pregnant women addicted to opioids quadrupled from 1999 to 2014, according to a new federal report. Their children are likely to enter the world at greater risk of health problems and developmental delays, and many end up in foster care, putting additional burdens on social service agencies and forcing schools to take on new roles.
In the latest study, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracked the number of pregnant women addicted to opioids over a period of 15 years. Nationally, the prevalence of women with opioid use disorder giving birth, rose from 1.5 mothers per 1,000 births to 6.5. West Virginia, which has one of the highest rates of opioid abuse in the U.S., has seen a 39 percent increase in children placed in foster care over the past six years.
One family who spoke to Education Week in December of 2016 has experienced firsthand the trauma and academic challenges faced by children whose parents are addicted to opioids. Carrie and Paul Sotomayor, of Cottageville, W.Va., adopted two young sisters, Briana and Riley, several years ago and took in an infant boy as a foster child in 2016. Their mothers were addicted to drugs and could not take care of them.
“When we brought [our foster son] through the door,” Carrie said, “Riley just burst into tears and said, how could anybody have done drugs and hurt this little baby. It just broke her heart.”
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Though many foster parents like the Sotomayors are helping to care for children whose parents are no longer able to, schools are also offering services and support.
“We assume that everything needs to be provided here, said Tracy LeMasters, the principal at Cottageville Elementary in Jackson County, W.Va. “That means if they need clothes, we’re going to give them clothes. If they need food, we’re going to get them food. They need love, we’re giving them the hug.”
As part of our coverage of the fallout from the opioid epidemic, we also spoke with J.D. Vance, the author of the best-seller Hillbilly Elegy, a memoir of his troubled childhood in West Virginia. Here’s what he had to say:
A version of this news article first appeared in the On Air: A Video Blog blog.