Opioid addiction leaves child custody in limbo

While the current presidential administration is espousing a get-tough approach targeting drug dealers, doctors and pharmacists, critics say it is not helping those who are suffering from addiction. Recent surveys revealed that Americans believe more focus should be on treatment for the addict instead of prosecution. When parents are in and out of treatment facilities, their children are often left in limbo. In Georgia and other states, more substance abusing parents are having their child custody rights severed.

Thousands of parents with drug addiction problems are being scrutinized about whether they are fit to care for their children. It is up to the courts, assisted by child welfare workers, to determine whether children should be removed from the home or placed with a foster family. The increase in the number of children taken from parents and placed in state custody in recent years is staggering.

Even if parents who are battling addiction are not prosecuted in court, the government must decide whether to remove the children and sever parental rights or offer more supportive services, hoping parents will clean up their act. One report states it is more difficult for parents with substance abuse problems to comply with court orders and follow through with safety plans for their children. Because addiction often affects multiple family members, more children are being placed in foster programs being cared for by strangers.

The drug epidemic is running rampant, and the idea that it is a victimless crime or not a crime at all is belied by the overwhelming number of child custody cases. In Georgia, family members who have concerns about the welfare of a child because of a parent's drug abuse may benefit from consulting with an attorney. A lawyer who is well-informed about such cases can help determine what actions to take during these troubling times.

Source: bloomberg.com, "Opioid Abuse Isn't 'Victimless.' What About the Kids?", Naomi Schaefer Riley, March 30, 2018

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