Methamphetamine abuse could be leading to an increase in child abuse and neglect, as reflected by a concomitant increase in foster care admissions, report researchers.
Their study found that a 1% increase in methamphetamine use led to a 1.5% increase in foster care admissions. It is the first study to provide evidence for the causal association between methamphetamine abuse and foster home admissions.
"Public health professionals have observed these large social costs of methamphetamine production and use," commented co-author Keith Finlay (Tulane University, New Orleans, Los Angeles, USA) in a press statement. "Our paper is one of the first to provide plausible causal evidence of these effects that are not borne by users but by children."
Another co-author, Scott Cunningham (Baylor University, Texas, USA) added: "Our findings suggest strongly that the social costs of parental meth use include child maltreatment and growth in foster care placements."
"To address this, child welfare policies should be designed specifically for the children of meth-using parents."
There was no significant association between parental incarceration or drug use with foster care admissions, a result that is "consistent with a net positive impact of meth on foster care caseload growth," remark the authors in Economic Inquiry.
According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, the foster care population dramatically rose from 280,000 in the 1980s to 408,000 in the late 1990s.
In accordance, methamphetamine use increased by 25.6% from 1995 to 1998, say Finlay and team.
"Given the large social costs of meth use on child maltreatment, policymakers face a significant challenge to reduce its use," remarked Cunningham.
"Regions with intensive meth use should consider greater resources for meth treatment and child welfare services. These areas have historically been rural or exurban and so may already be underserved."
For the study, the authors collected monthly data on foster care admissions and exits, meth drug treatment admissions, and street meth prices between January 1995 and December 1999.
Foster care enrolment data was obtained from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
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