In this brief, author Kristin Smith examines parental substance use and who cares for children when their parents cannot. It uses data from the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services’ Division for Children, Youth, and Families Results Oriented Management and the Statewide Automated Child Welfare Information System (NH Bridges), and the American Community Survey. She reports that the number of child abuse and neglect reports assessed by the New Hampshire Division for Children, Youth, and Families increased by 21 percent between 2013 and 2016. The number of children or youth removed from parental care increased from 358 in 2012 to 547 in 2016, and the percent that included a substance-related allegation doubled from 30 percent to 60 percent. Five percent of children or youth removed from parental care in 2016 were born drug-exposed, up from 2 percent in 2012. The percent of children in state custody placed in out-of-home care with a relative increased from 23 percent to 33 percent from 2012 to 2016. Many grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings, other extended family, and close friends step forward to care for children when their parents cannot. When parents cannot provide care, children need support systems in place and stable connections so they can develop the capacity for emotional bonding and build resilience. Encouraging parents to seek treatment, as well as providing services to families where there is reasonable concern for potential child abuse or neglect, can help families access the services they need and identify issues before they escalate into problems. Prevention and intervention efforts targeting children and youth may be beneficial in reducing the impact of parental opioid use.

Publication Date

Spring 6-5-2018


Regional Brief #53


Durham, N.H. : Carsey School of Public Policy, University of New Hampshire

Document Type



Copyright 2018. Carsey School of Public Policy. These materials may be used for the purposes of research, teaching, and private study. For all other uses, contact the copyright holder





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