Thursday, December 15, 2016

Opiate addiction leading to high rate of children in state care; Vt. sees record for adoptions in 2016

Vermont adoptions (Free Press graphic)
The opiate epidemic has led to a growing number of rural children being taken away from home, April McCullum reports for the Burlington Free Press. Vermont, one of the most rural states, has processed a record number of adoptions in 2016, partly because of an increasingly high number of children in state care, mostly because of opiates and other drugs, and partly because of an initiative to find children permanent homes.

Vermont this year has processed 217 adoptions, as of last week, and 17 more are expected to be finalized by the end of 2016, McCullum writes. "An additional 12 adoptions were completed with a child's relatives through a process known as a conditional custody order." Chief Superior Court Judge Brian Grearson told McCullum. “It’s not a record that anybody wants to beat. I mean, it’s reality. . . . If that’s the best result for a child, it’s important that it be done as soon as possible. I wish we could be talking about something other than a record number of adoptions."

Karen Shea, interim deputy commissioner for the Family Services Division at the state Department for Children and Families, said "Young children remain the largest group in state custody today," McCullum writes. "As of Dec. 1, Vermont had custody of 1,328 children, she said. More than 500 of them were infants, toddlers and preschool-aged children. Just over half the children who enter state custody are eventually returned to a parent's care, Shea said. That statistic, known as the reunification rate, rose from 44 percent in 2015."

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