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Sean Nelson
By Sean Nelson November 30, 2015

Hartzler was modest on connection between drugs and foster care

U.S. Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri , visited ABC 17’s "This Week" on Oct. 9, and was asked about "Take Back The District," an anti-drug initiative she was launching.

Hartzler said drugs posed a significant problem in her district. Employers, she said, tell her they cannot find an employee to fill a position because applicants can’t pass a drug test, while military recruiters say they have to turn away otherwise exceptional recruits because of drug use.

Hartzler talked about her years teaching at-risk teenagers and cited a widespread drug problem in the United States and one of its most sobering effects: the displacement of children into foster care.

"Twenty-five percent of our kids in foster care are there because their parents are involved in drugs," Hartzler said.

Certainly drug use by parents can lead to state intervention, but is the number of reported cases really this high?

Foster care

According to the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, there are 397,122 children living in the foster system without permanent families.

Hartzler has long been an advocate for the advancement of foster care, even co-publishing an article on its problems.

Kyle Buckles, Hartzler’s communications director, pointed us toward the Green Book.

Each year, statistics are compiled into the House of Representative’s Green Book, which is used to provide background material and data on the programs run by the Ways and Means Committee, including foster care.

Foster care statistics

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Circumstance of Removal FY2010 FY2011 FY2012 FY2013
Drug abuse (parent) 26.1 26.2 28.5 28.1
Alcohol abuse (parent) 7.6 6.3 6.3 5.6

Without considering alcohol, drug use by the parent was above 25 percent from 2010 through 2013, for which data is available. When alcohol is factored in, this number is more than 30 percent.

Drug use is the second largest cause of the removal of children from their parent’s custody.

The most prevalent circumstance for removal is neglect, which is present in over half of the cases in the United States — but it is important to remember that more than one factor may be cited in a particular case. For example, a child may be removed from his parents’ custody for neglect, parental drug abuse and child drug abuse.

The problem appears to be getting worse. A 2009 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that between the years 2002 and 2007, 12 percent of children between the ages of six to 11 were living with a parent who abused drugs or alcohol.

Take Back the District

Hartzler’s initiative has since met once to discuss the district’s drug issues.

Her goal was to bring together law enforcement, parents, school officials, community leaders and citizens.

The program met early on Oct. 19, where Hartzler, speakers and guests discussed the issuesand possible solutions to the problem and then diverted to a "Faith-Based Rehabilitation and Ministry" panel discussion.

Our ruling

Hartzler claimed that a quarter of children in foster care were there because of their parent’s drug abuse.

Her claim is a modest estimation of the issue, according to reliable data kept by Congress. Drug abuse by parents is the second most prevalent reason for a parent losing custody of a child to foster care services.

We rate this claim to be True.

Our Sources

This Week, ABC 17, "This Week" with U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, Oct. 9, 2015.

Communications Director Kyle Buckles, Office of Representative Vicky Hartzler, phone/email correspondence Nov. 2015.

Committee on Ways and Means U.S. House of Representatives, Green Book, Nov. 2014.

Child Welfare Information Gateway, Parental Substance Use and the Child Welfare System, Oct. 2014.

Anti-Drug Initiative, Representative Vicky Hartzler, Accessed Nov. 11, 2015.

National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Children Living With Substance-Dependent or Substance-Abusing Parents: 2002-2007, April 16, 2009.

Hartzler was modest on connection between drugs and foster care

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