Nearly 15% of children in one surveyed area have a parent who has been in jail, in comparison to 8% of children across the nation.
Children in parts of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana may be at greater risk of being separated from their parents, likely due to the opioid crisis, according to a new survey.
Interact for Health released the 2017 Child Well-Being Survey on Friday, August 3. The survey was taken by more than 2,700 parents and guardians in 22 counties across southwest Ohio, northern Kentucky and southeast Indiana.
According to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the stand-out results from the survey include the fact that nearly 15% of children in the surveyed area have a parent who has been in jail, in comparison to 8% of children across the nation.
Additionally, approximately 8% of the children in the surveyed area had a parent who had died, in comparison to 3% across the country.
“While this survey doesn’t tell us why, substance abuse is a likely contributor,” Sonya Carrico, senior program officer for the opioid team at Interact for Health, told the Enquirer. “Our region has some of the highest rates of drug overdose deaths in the nation, many among adults age 25 to 44, and the percentage of youth in foster care due to parental substance abuse is on the rise.”
This reasoning would make sense, as Ohio and Kentucky have been some of the states hardest hit by the opioid epidemic, according to the Enquirer. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s drug overdose mortality by state had Ohio ranked second in the U.S., and Kentucky fifth.
Another piece of information that supports this idea, the Enquirer states, is that 30% of the children in custody of the Hamilton County Job and Family Services were taken out of their homes due to having a parent struggling with substance use.
In some cases, this leads to children being taken in by other family members. Maureen Sharib of Cincinnati is caring for her 10-year-old granddaughter Brianna, and has been since she was 15 months old. Sharib’s daughter and Brianna’s mother, Natalie, died in 2017 after an overdose. Brianna’s 5-year-old brother, Jaxon, is in the custody of Sharib’s sister.
“The epidemic’s toll is hard to measure, but these numbers have to be considered every time you hear an ambulance passing or see one parked in the street,” Sharib told the Enquirer. “Just about every time you see that, there are children involved… Innocent children standing by, watching the horror of what’s happening to the people who are most important to them in their lives. There is no taking that away—ever. There is no bandage that can salve those wounds.”
Situations such as these, according to the Enquirer, could affect children’s mental and physical health later in life.
“When children experience prolonged, intense, frequent stress, their bodies may respond to elevated stress hormone levels in ways harmful to their growth and development,” Dr. Robert Shapiro, director of the Mayerson Center for Safe and Healthy Children at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told the Enquirer.
However, Shapiro tells the Enquirer, there are ways to help children cope and stay on a healthy path later in life.
“We can prevent these harmful effects by building supportive communities, by promoting strong caring relationships with adults and by strengthening a child’s social and emotional skills,” Shapiro said.