More Kids Entering Foster Care Due to Parental Drug Abuse

December 21, 2017 08:19 AM

(ABC 6 News) -  A new report from The Minnesota Department of Human Services shows drug abuse by parents has become the leading cause of children entering foster care. Last year around 27% of kids removed from homes were due to substance abuse as the primary reason, followed by neglect at 24.5%.

"This is really indicative of the degree of the problem that we're seeing now," Minnesota Department of Human Services Deputy Commissioner Chuck Johnson said. "I think is really do to a lot of concerns around drug use in our communities particularly with the opioid epidemic here in Minnesota."

Someone who truly understands what goes on between families in the foster care system is Tammi Stoos.

"My first foster care placement that I can remember was at 14."

Stoos was in foster care for most of her young life.

"At the time, I denied I had any feelings and I bottled them up,” Stoos said.  

But when she became a mom at age 15, she started to think and act differently. She grew up to become a social worker in Fillmore County for 14 years


Not to mention she's also become a foster mom in 2002 and later an adoptive mom.

"So my first placement was my cousin, and I got licensed for her and I decided I would just keep doing it," Stoos said.  

One of Stoos's newest foster kids is a teenager, and is one of thousands of kids who have been separated from their parents due to substance abuse.

"She technically just moved here on Friday and she's here in all honesty because both of her parents are in prison for drugs," Stoos said.  

When ABC 6 News asked her about her experience, she mentioned when she was 8, she was in the house during a police drug raid.

When asked if she had any advice for kids just like her, she said,“Don't do drugs like your parents.”

"It was much more about showing kids, especially teenage girls, that even if you go through horrible things, and horrible things happen to you, you can still be successful, and you get to decide what success looks like," Stoos said.

Stoos said so far she's taken care of about 40 kids, and still stays in contact with almost all of them.

State data for 2016 shows in local counties drug and alcohol abuse factored into a large percentage of cases:

  • Fillmore County - 60%
  • MN Prairie (Dodge, Steele, Waseca) - 46%
  • Mower County - 40%
  • Olmsted County - 38%
  • Goodhue County - 20%
  • Freeborn County - 19%

Olmsted County provided additional information for cases in 2017.  According to Child and Family Services Director Amy Shillabeer, LICSW, 32% of youth have been removed from homes for drug abuse, 7% have been removed because of parental alcohol abuse.  Shillabeer said that number has stayed consistent over the last five years.

"That is not to say that we haven’t seen more reports of this, but our first effort is around safety planning with other family members and support people," she said.  "We move to the option of foster care when we can’t form a safety plan that we have confidence in as child safety is the priority. "


Elise Romas

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