You never know where the opioid disaster that afflicts West Virginia will lead the state.
In addition to other major problems, it is affecting the state’s children. And in doing so, it threatens to bring the state to its knees because the future of any state or culture is its children. And opioids have made that future dreary indeed.
The state has 7,000 foster children, and most of them became that way because their parent or parents have become slaves to one of the many addictive drugs available in the state.
That is a record number of foster children, and that number increases every month.
According to the latest statistics, there are only 4,000 parental units willing to accept foster kids. Added to that are perhaps thousands of grandparents who have accepted responsibility for their grandchildren because of opioids, which have made their children unable to care for their children.
Grandparents are a godsend, it’s true, but the fact they are older is a minus when it comes to raising young children. They need guidance and help. Raising children in this new age is different, even from 20 or 25 years ago.
Then there are the babies born addicted because their mothers used drugs during pregnancy. Once born, they go through detoxifying, which involves crying, body shaking and all the negative things adults go through as they withdraw from drugs.
Once their tiny bodies are no longer affected by the drug their mothers ingested, they appear to be normal. But the experts say there is no way anyone can predict how they will be affected in later years.
What does all this mean? It means that our children must be our top concern and the governor and the Legislature must do whatever they can to bring the children through this maze of complex problems that opioids cause.
It’s abundantly clear that West Virginia officials are struggling to manage the crisis. A federal lawsuit was filed in October by a local law firm and two nonprofit advocacy groups. The suit claims that the state has failed to protect foster children for years.
West Virginia has the highest rate of child removals from families in the country, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Resources. More than 63 percent of the children entering state care are age 10 and younger. Many, if not most, child abuse and neglect cases involve drugs.
So the drug crisis goes deep. And even if the drug crisis were solved today, the effects will last for generations.
But the kids must come first.