The opioid crisis is a significant challenge for health and human service systems that serve children, youth, and families across the United States. Between 2000 and 2017, the number of foster care entries, a type of adverse childhood experience (ACE), attributable to parental drug use increased by 147%. Nevertheless, there is variation in the burden of opioid overdose and foster care rates across the United States, suggesting community supports and systems to support families affected by substance use also vary.
This qualitative study sampled communities experiencing high and low rates of overdose mortality and foster care entries (i.e., a qualitative comparison group) to better understand what might protect some counties from high overdose mortality and foster care entries. The sample included six counties from three states that were selected based on their rates of opioid overdose mortality and foster care entries. Using purposive sampling within counties, interview and discussion group participants included multi-sector community partners, parents whose children had been removed due to parental substance use, and caregivers caring for children who had been removed from their homes.
Across all counties, prevention was not front-of-mind. Yet, participants from communities experiencing high rates of overdose mortality and foster care entries identified several factors that might help lessen exposure to substance use and ACEs, including more community-based prevention services for children and youth. Both parents and caregivers across all communities also described the need for additional supports and services. Participants also described the impact of COVID-19 on services, including greater utilization of mental health and substance use treatment services and the challenges with engaging children and youth on virtual platforms. The implications for prevention are discussed, including the need to encourage primary prevention programs in communities.
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Matjasko, J. L., Chovnick, G., Bradford, J., Treves-Kagan, S., Usher, K., Vaughn, E., & Ingoldsby, E. (2022, January 3). Strengthening communities: A qualitative assessment of opportunities for the prevention of adverse childhood experiences in the wake of the opioid crisis. Journal of Child and Family Studies. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10826-021-02202-z