The number of children in Tennessee’s foster care system is back near 8,500, up from a low of 7,000 four years ago. And according to the Department of Children’s Services, illegal drug-use is largely to blame.
Cases in which kids were pulled out of their homes because of drugs or alcohol have nearly tripled in the last five years.
DCS Commissioner Jim Henry says it is possible the state is just doing a better job of tracking why children enter state custody. But he also sees a growing drug problem, from prescription painkiller abuse to methamphetamine.
“You know, I can’t change the drug culture out here. The only thing I can do if the kids get unsafe is to try to help them.”
Handling more children also hits the department’s bottom line. The average cost of keeping a kid in state custody is $31,000 a year.