Drugs are now the top reason Minn. kids are put in foster care

Twenty-seven percent of children placed in foster care in 2016 were removed from their homes due to parental drug use, making it the No. 1 reason kids wind up in foster care, according to a report from the state Department of Human Services.

This is the first time drug use has overtaken neglect, human services deputy commissioner Chuck Johnson told MPR News.

"Why we're seeing drug increase seems to be more related to what's going on that we're seeing on the drug treatment side of our business," he said, "which is a real resurgence in meth and of course the opioid crisis that we're all becoming more familiar with and how that's really hitting many communities."

Reports of physical and sexual abuse increased in 2016 from the previous year. Johnson said that's likely due to changes in how reports are screened after the 2014 death of a child while in the protection system.

Before a child is sent to foster care, Johnson said the human services department first intervenes to try to keep the family together.

"Really foster care happens when we get to the decision that that just can't work," he said, "and the child for the child's safety needs to be placed in another home."

Johnson says 63 percent of children in foster care were reunited with their families.

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