A record 56 children in Washington state’s foster care and child welfare system died or nearly died in 2022 after taking illegal drugs, including the ultra-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The total number of children in the state’s care who accidentally or intentionally ingested a drug in 2022 was about equal to the total from 2019 through 2021 combined, according to a report from Washington State’s Office of the Family and Children’s Ombud’s (OFCO).
The department receives its data from the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), which notifies OFCO when a critical incident occurs. This includes child deaths and near deaths.
About 38 of the cases recorded in 2022 involved fentanyl, by far the largest cause of opioid overdose deaths in Washington and the United States overall.
Cases of accidental drug poisoning involving children are hardly limited to Washington state. In 2021, more than a hundred infants and children died from accidental fentanyl poisoning in the US, a sixfold increase compared to 2018.
In Washington, more than 8,000 children rely on the welfare system, including foster care. Still, the latest report from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families detailing the health and safety of the children in their care suggests more can be done to preserve this system. them safe.
In 2022, a total of 56 children were poisoned by drugs in their foster homes. Of that total, 38 of the poisonings involved fentanyl
Twenty-four children aged eleven and under accidentally took a drug in their family’s home. Four of the incidents involved intentional overdoses by young people aged 13 to 17
The state’s foster care system, which cares for more than 8,000 children, aims to help children “thrive physically, emotionally and academically, nourished by family and community.”
The application process to become a foster parent is comprehensive and includes at least one training session in child-rearing tools such as behavior management and trauma-informed care.
The latter is especially important because many children end up in foster care after being removed from at-risk families.
In approximately 36 percent of cases, a child is removed from home and placed in foster care as a result of parental substance abuse.
In fact, tThe number of children entering the foster care system due to drug use by their parents has increased more than doubled since 2000.
The application process also includes a home visit, during which a state agent personally inspects the home, meets the prospective foster family, and ensures the environment is stable and nurturing.
The process culminates in the foster family being licensed to act in the state’s stead and care for a child in need.
However, the state-issued reportwhich analyzed the rates of overdoses and accidental poisonings among Washington children who were in foster care or who had received services from the state’s child welfare system, points to shortcomings in a system designed to protect vulnerable children after being placed with a licensed family are placed.
Of the 85 child deaths and 62 near-deaths recorded in Washington’s Social Security system between January 2022 and December 2022, 34 near-deaths and 22 deaths resulted from accidental drug poisonings and overdoses.
Fentanyl was involved in 67 percent of these cases. Twenty-four of the children were eleven years old or younger, and an even higher proportion of poisonings among this age group were caused by fentanyl: 79 percent.
Nine of the accidental ingestions and overdoses occurred in infants, while another fourteen were toddlers. The report does not say how many overdoses were fatal and how many could be prevented with an overdose-reversing drug.
The problem in Washington’s system has continued to worsen over the years. The total of 56 accidental drug consumptions and overdoses in 2022 is up from 32 in 2021, and again from 13 in 2020.
DailyMail.com reached out to OFCO, but the department did not return our request for comment.
Fentanyl-related deaths in the US have skyrocketed in the 2010s. At the start of the decade, 2,666 Americans died from a fentanyl overdose. This figure shot up to 19,413 in 2016. Covid made the situation even worse, with a record 72,484 deaths in 2021
Fentanyl users on the streets of Portland, Oregon. The drug, easily produced in Mexico, flows across the porous southern border in pill form. The pills known on the street as “blues” cost anywhere from $3 to 5 a pop and are first crushed and then superheated on foil, with the vapor inhaled through a tube
In addition to requiring licensing and home visits before a family can take a child into their home, the state conducts annual welfare checks on children in their foster family’s homes.
But the state just needs to check in a random sample of at least 10 percent of houses. In 2022, they reported in just over 13 percent of households, and the annual rate averaged between 11 and 12 percent.
The report concluded with a litany of recommendations to strengthen worker training to better identify and address fentanyl overdoses when they occur, as well as situations where a child may be abused or neglected.
The OFCO already runs a program that distributes medicine lockers to families to safely store their medications, but it does not provide families with the life-saving antidote to Naloxone overdose, which typically costs between $35 and $65.
The number of accidental fentanyl poisonings in Washington’s welfare system is increasing, joining rates in greater Washington state and across the country.
The state is required to audit a random sample of at least 10 percent of the state’s foster homes. There are currently approximately 8,000 children in foster care in Washington
In Washington, 65 percent of fatal overdoses in 2022 were caused by a synthetic opioid, primarily fentanyl, according to data from the University of Washington’s Addiction, Drugs and Alcohol Institute.
That was a significant increase from 2021, when fentanyl was responsible for about 50 percent of overdose deaths. Just seven years ago that was still eight percent.
Deaths involving synthetic opioids have risen steadily nationwide since 2016, a time when fentanyl first showed signs of contaminating the illicit drug supply, mostly heroin, on a large scale.
It has since devastated large parts of major cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco into vast rural communities.
Of the more than 107,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2022 an estimated 68 percentMore than 72,000 cases involved a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl. That’s about 199 people dying every day.