The Ripple Effect: The Impact of the Opioid Epidemic on Children and Families

Press release can be found here.

Opioid addiction is well recognized as a national crisis, but the impact on children and adolescents whose parents or close family members are addicted has received little sustained attention. This far-reaching report by United Hospital Fund is the first comprehensive look at the successive waves of loss and trauma experienced by newborns, young children, adolescents, and their families affected by opioid addiction. It also looks at the needs of kinship caregivers, typically grandparents, who often step in to care for these children.

Potential remedies are proposed, and the report describes innovative programs around the nation that address these issues. It draws on lessons learned from the HIV/AIDS and crack/cocaine epidemics, which, like the opioid crisis, were characterized by stigma and failures to provide needed services to children and families. And like those earlier crises, opioid addiction is leaving too many children in foster or kinship care, caring for younger siblings, and suffering from potentially long-term behavioral and physical health issues.

The Ripple Effect was produced with the generous support of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and in collaboration with the Milbank Memorial Fund. It is based on extensive research interviews and a literature review by UHF staff, as well as a two-day meeting hosted by UHF in October 2018 that brought together some 40 national and local experts in child development, family policy, addiction treatment, and child welfare, and state and local government officials.