Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw Brief Congress on Opioids and Child Welfare

May 10, 2018
Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw Brief Congress on Opioids and Child Welfare


WASHINGTON – Dr. Phil and Robin McGraw this week testified before Rep. Karen Bass (D-CA) and other members of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force to explore how the opioid crisis increases children placed in foster care. The Wednesday hearing, which was attended by members across the partisan spectrum, also featured Sarah Avery, a mother who battled an addiction to opiates and other substances for over 17 years before becoming a Family Mentor with the Sobriety Treatment and Recovery Teams (START) program in Owensboro, Kentucky.

“One of the worst things we can do to our child welfare system is overload it and one of the worst things we can do to an addicted parent is rip their kids away from them. The opioid crisis has increased the amount of both instances,” said Rep. Bass, one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth. “We need to start treating addiction as a disease and not a choice. As members of Congress, it’s up to us to responsibly and effectively implement change to address this issue and I look forward to working together in a bipartisan capacity to achieve some of the goals laid out at today’s hearing.”

“When a parent is placed into a treatment program or put in jail because of their opioid addiction we may have no choice but to place a child in a foster care home,” said Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA), who founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth along with Rep. Bass. “This has shown to have a negative impact on not only the child but those seeking treatment. I strongly believe one of the best ways for a person to be successful in treating their addiction is by keeping the family unit together. Members of Congress have the responsibility of implementing effective policy and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to move legislation that will bring the opioid crisis to its knees.”

“The hearing highlighted an important intersection of the opioid crisis and the child welfare system,” Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), another co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth added. “This epidemic is devastating families across Michigan and the rest of the country. Because of this crisis, more children are now entering a foster care system that is already overburdened and underfunded. Our response to this crisis should not be family separation, but prevention and preservation. I’m pleased that the Foster Youth Caucus and the Bipartisan Heroin Task Force are continuing to team up to address this crisis.”

One of those goals is the successful implementation of the Family First Prevention Services Act, which was passed in the 2018 omnibus package, which was the single biggest increase in child care funding history. It also included significant increases in a number of child welfare programs that are normally left with frozen funding levels or across-the-board cuts.

“Family First has many parts but two critical elements for addressing the opioid crisis: Family Based Residential Treatment and Support for Kinship Families,” Dr. Phil said during his opening statement. “Timely implementation of these critical provisions is key to addressing the opioid epidemic and its impact on child welfare systems. Our treatment approaches are not working, our social services approaches are not working and our tax dollars are being squandered all because addiction is a disease that is misunderstood and mischaracterized. The time for that to stop is now, the place for that change to begin is here, and the people to lead that endeavor, are all of you.”

“If we can heal a family then we are going in the right direction. We need resources and services that keep the entire family in mind,” Robin McGraw added. “As you continue your debates in Congress, I implore you to focus on supporting programs that keep families together, understand that people relapse, and continue to support relatives to fill in to care for the children they love.”

You can watch the entire event here.

You can view pictures from the event here.