In the U.S., parental neglect is the most common reason children enter the foster care system. Neglect often goes hand in hand with other issues, including substance abuse. As of 2017, a parent’s abuse of alcohol or illicit drugs accounted for one of every three U.S. children in foster care — a rate that has been rising steadily since the mid-2000s.
“These problems don’t happen in isolation,” said Daniel Whitaker, professor in the Department of Health Policy & Behavioral Sciences in the School of Public Health. “If there’s substance abuse going on, chances are these families are also dealing with things like poverty or mental health issues. Kids endure a range of negative social and emotional impacts that result directly from a parent’s substance abuse as well as indirectly from related matters such as a parent’s arrest.”