Opioid epidemic is driving thousands of Minnesota children into foster care

The number of Minnesota children being removed from drug-addicted parents has reached crisis levels, flooding a state child welfare system that was already operating under heavy strains.

As the opioid epidemic has tightened its grip on the Upper Midwest, drug abuse by parents has emerged as the leading reason why children are taken from their parents. Children have been removed from their families because of parental drug abuse on more than 6,000 occasions from 2015 to 2017, according to new data from the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).

Parents’ substance abuse now accounts for nearly one of three children being removed from their homes statewide, compared to just over one in 10 a decade ago.

The trend has also produced an alarming increase in newborns exposed to opioids in utero. More than 1,600 Minnesota children were exposed prenatally to alcohol or illegal substances in 2017 — more than double …

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