A record 56 children in Washington state’s foster care and child welfare system died or nearly died in 2022 after ingesting illegal drugs, including the ultra-potent synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The total number of children in state care who accidentally or intentionally ingested a medication in 2022 was approximately equal to the total for 2019 to 2021 combined.
About 38 of the cases recorded in 2022 involved fentanyl, by far the largest contributor to opioid overdose deaths in Washington and the United States overall.
Accidental drug poisoning cases involving children are not limited to Washington state. In 2021, more than 100 babies and children died from accidental fentanyl poisoning in the US, six times more than in 2018.
In Washington, more than 8,000 children rely on the welfare system, including foster care, but the latest report from the Washington State Department of Children, Youth and Families detailing the health and safety of children in its care suggests That more could be done to keep them safe.
In 2022, a total of 56 children were poisoned with drugs in their foster homes. Of that total, 38 of the poisonings involved fentanyl.
Twenty-four children ages 11 and younger accidentally took a drug at their family home. Four of the incidents involved intentional overdoses by youth ages 13 to 17.
The state foster care system, which serves more than 8,000 children, aims to help them thrive “physically, emotionally and academically, nurtured 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 particularly important given that many children enter foster care after being removed from high-risk homes.
In approximately 36 percent of cases, a child is removed from their home and placed in foster care as a result of their parent’s substance abuse.
In fact,The number of cases of children entering the foster care system due to their parents’ drug use has increased. more than double since 2000.
The application process also includes a home visit, during which a state agent inspects the home in person, meets with the prospective foster family, and ensures that the environment is stable and welcoming.
The process culminates when the foster family receives a license to act in the state’s place and care for a child in need.
However, the report issued by the statethat analyzed the number of overdoses and accidental poisonings among Washington children in foster care or who had received services from the state’s child welfare system, hints at flaws in a system intended to protect vulnerable children after they have been placed with a family authorized.
Of the 85 child deaths and 62 near deaths recorded in Washington’s welfare system between January 2022 and December 2022, 34 near deaths and 22 deaths were due to accidental poisonings and drug overdoses.
Sixty-seven percent of the total cases involved fentanyl. Twenty-four of the children were 11 years old or younger, and an even higher proportion of poisonings in this age group were caused by fentanyl: 79 percent.
Nine of the accidental ingestions and overdoses occurred in infants, while another 14 were young children. The report did not say how many overdoses were fatal and how many were prevented by using an overdose-reversing medication.
The problem in Washington’s system has gotten steadily worse over the years. The total of 56 accidental drug uses and overdoses in 2022 is up from 32 in 2021 and up from 13 in 2020.
DailyMail.com contacted OFCO but the department did not respond to our request for comment.
Deaths caused by fentanyl in the United States increased in the 2010s. At the beginning of the decade, 2,666 Americans died from fentanyl overdoses. This number shot up to 19,413 in 2016. Covid worsened the situation, with a record 72,484 deaths recorded in 2021.
Fentanyl users on the streets of Portland, Oregon. The drug that is easily manufactured in Mexico is flooding the porous southern border in pill form. The pills known on the street as ‘blues’ cost between $3 and $5 each and are first crushed and then superheated in aluminum foil and the vapor is inhaled through a tube.
In addition to requiring a license and home visits before allowing a family to take in a child, the state conducts annual well-being checks on children in the homes of their foster families.
But the State is only obliged to control a random sample of at least 10 percent household. In 2022, they registered just over 13 percent of households, and the annual rate ranged between 11 and 12 percent on average.
The report concluded with a litany of recommendations to strengthen worker training to better detect and address fentanyl overdoses as they occur, as well as situations in which a child may be abused or neglected.
OFCO already runs a program that distributes medication safes to families to store their medications safely, but does not provide them with the overdose antidote naloxone, which typically costs between $35 and $65.
The rate of accidental fentanyl poisoning in Washington’s welfare system is rising along with rates in the great state of Washington, as well as the country as a whole.
The state is required to monitor a random sample of at least 10 percent of the state’s foster homes. There are currently about 8,000 children in Washington in foster care.
In Washington, 65 percent of fatal drug overdoses in 2022 were caused by a synthetic opioid, primarily fentanyl, according to data from the Institute on Addiction, Drugs and Alcohol at the University of Washington.
This is a significant increase from 2021, when fentanyl accounted for about 50 percent of overdose deaths. Just seven years ago it was eight percent.
Deaths related to synthetic opioids nationwide have risen steadily since 2016, a time when fentanyl first showed signs of contaminating the supply of illicit drugs, typically heroin, on a large scale.
Since then, it has devastated large swaths of big cities like Philadelphia and San Francisco to expand rural communities.
Of more than 107,000 fatal drug overdoses in 2022, an estimated 68 percent, more than 72,000, involved a synthetic opioid such as fentanyl. This is equivalent to an average of 199 people dying every day.