Rise of opioid abuse is taking toll on foster care system in Wisconsin

NOW: Rise of opioid abuse is taking toll on foster care system in Wisconsin


WISCONSIN (CBS 58) -- In Wisconsin, 75% of children whose parents are addicted to drugs are taken out of their homes.

We're seeing firsthand how the opioid crisis is tearing apart families and overwhelming the foster care system. The state is trying to figure out the best way to deal with the opioid crisis and its ripple effect on the foster care system. Meanwhile, the drug is blindsiding more and more families.

Kay Staples had no idea her daughter, a successful bank teller was addicted to painkillers prescribed for a surgery.

"It's so wrong, the level of manipulation someone would go to get the opioids."

Staples' daughter has three kids and says she's learned to manipulate the system and her.

"My daughter's house was beautiful, big house, and that's what they were seeing. I am telling them, on the other hand, she is leaving the baby. She started leaving them with strangers, would never have them, I wouldn't hear them in the background. It's not fair to any child that has to go through this with their parent," said Kay Staples, mother of an opioid addict. 

Now, Staples is raising her oldest grandchild. She's having to step in like many families in Wisconsin.

"The foster parent system is very different than it was when I was a young person. When I was a young person, we had way more two-parent families. We have a lot fewer people to take on this challenge," said Eloise Anderson, Secretary of Wisconsin Department of Children and Families.

Anderson says the number of kids taken out of the home due to drugs has gone up by 75% in the last five years.

"We have a lot more resources in the substance abuse system as a whole. It's interesting because one of the places I am really concerned about is the rural areas, trying to make sure we have resources there," said Anderson.

Opioid abuse related cases has put a strain on the county office staff throughout the state.

Attorney Brad Schimel says they're spending millions and budgets are exhausted.

"We are certainly working hard on the law enforcement side to reduce the flow of illegal drugs in our state. We are working very hard to increase treatment resources to help those who are working very hard to stay sober, but if we are going to win this battle, we have got to win this on the prevention side. We are working to get treatment to them, at the same time we have to make sure we say if you have a child in your home, take steps to make sure they don't have access to those drugs, and you have to plan that before you shoot up," said Wisconsin Attorney General Brad Schimel. 

That is Staples concern. She has custody of one grandchild and hopes to get the others too because she's afraid for their future.

"With the opioids, I just hope they can be used in the right way and parents that are stuck on them and want to get off, don't be scared to talk to somebody," said Staples. 

The Department of Children and Families say they need more people to step up and take on the challenge to become foster parents. They are having a hard time placing these kids. 

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