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Opioid epidemic, poverty continue to impact Indiana children

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — New information was released overnight about what life is really like for kids in Indiana. The Indiana Youth Institute’s 2018 kids count data book shows, despite some economic gains in the state, the opioid epidemic is impacting Hoosier children.

The state’s child poverty rate dropped to less than 20 percent in 2016 for the first time since 2009, so you would think things are on the up and up for kids in Indiana, but the percentage of kids being removed from their homes by the Department of Child Services in 2017 rose 11 percent. Of those, nearly 60 percent are tied to substance abuse.

Indiana children are taken from their homes and put in foster care more than twice as often as the national average, according to a new review of the Department of Child Services.

Governor Eric Holcomb hired the “Child Welfare Policy and Practice Group” to review the department after its old leader resigned.

The national average of children placed in foster care is 5.5 per 1,000, but in Indiana the number is about 13 children per 1,000.

Indiana Youth Institute President and CEO Tami Silverman said it’s really young kids that are affected the most.

“A lot of the users and folks that are addicted to opioids are in that 25 to 35 age category, which means they have younger children and which also means that the kids going into foster care there’s been an increase in the number of kids that are going in in units, so two or three kids, in one case we talked to one of the local foster care providers that had a family unit of six kids that were under 10. And so that makes the placements very difficult,” Silverman said.

The Indiana Youth Institute also lays out data directly connecting substance abuse with child abuse. Just in Marion County, there were 22.7 substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect per every 1,000 children in 2016 and reports to the Indiana Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline happen on average every two minutes.

Parental underemployment or job loss is also impacting children in Indiana. Permanent parental job loss is linked to an increased likelihood of divorce, family relocation and children repeating a grade, which are all big impacts on a child’s life.

Despite child poverty hitting it’s lowest point since 2009, Indiana is still ranked at 31st in the country. Nearly a quarter of Indiana parents say that it is somewhat or very often hard to pay for basics such as food or housing.

“We know that unemployment rates are low right now, but if parents with kids don’t have access to childcare and they don’t have access to transportation, they’re not going to be able to get those good jobs that means so many good outcomes for those kids,” Silverman said.

The child poverty rate in Marion County is 28 percent, according to the data book. It’s much worse for some groups of kids compared to others. Black children are three times more likely, at 42.2 percent, and Hispanic children more than twice as likely, 30.9 percent, to live in poverty than their white peers, at 13.9 percent.

You can look at data for just your specific county on the Indiana Youth Institute web site and read the full Indiana 2018 Kids Count Data Book.