At 10 a.m. on a recent Wednesday morning, a line of parents pushing strollers filed into a conference room at the Sacramento County Courthouse in California. They sat at rows of narrow plastic tables, shushing their babies and looking up at a man in a black robe.
Hearing Officer Jim Teal sounded his gavel. “This is the time and place set for Early Intervention Family Drug Court,” he began, gazing sternly at the parents who sat before him. “Graduation from this court is considered a critical factor in determination that the children of participants will be safe from any further exposure to the danger and destructive impact of parental substance abuse.”
There has been a surge recently, across the U.S., in the number of children entering the foster care system after years of decline. Nationally, roughly 265,000 kids entered foster care in 2015 — the highest number since 2008, according to a recent government report.
Substance abuse is a factor in up to 80 percent of cases where a child is removed from a home. And there are signs that the opioid epidemic may be to blame.