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Children and Youth: The Silent Victims of the Silent HCV Epidemic – Pt. 3

In part 1 and part 2 I covered some of my reasoning for a call to increase attention on at risk youth and children. In this final part, I want to give some answers to the question,

What can foster parents and caregivers do?

The list I’ve put together is by no means exhaustive or complete. Each experience will be unique, which means there will be a lot of extra stuff that will influence how you approach the situation and what you do. The number one goal is simply to increase awareness and generate a conversation.

In my free time I’ve been working on a HCV and harm reduction foster parent training toolkit keeping with this spirit of awareness. In October of this year I partnered with a local adoption agency in Evansville, Indiana and piloted the training to a group of foster parents. The feedback I received helped me make improvements and it’s being revised continuously with each new set of foster parents that participate.

These suggestions and tips aren’t meant to be official guidelines or recommendations. They are simple a summary of conversations I’ve had with foster parents and caseworkers, as well as my own professional and personal opinion, of a few easy things we can start doing now.

Foster parents and caregivers of children who have HCV concerns should:

  1. Talk with a foster care agency or the department of child services to address concerns you have, your reasons for them and explore options.
  2. Speak with the child’s primary care doctor to explore the possibility of screening for HCV. I always encourage first speaking with a physician. If possible one that is familiar with the child’s history. That doesn’t mean you should ignore a concern or not advocate for their health if you feel it necessary.
  3. Be aware of any risks the child may have been exposed to in the home they came from:
    • Was there heroin or injection use?
    • Is either parent HCV+?
    • Is the child less than 2 years old?
  4. Seek out information on HCV from as well as local, state and national organizations that can help guide you and answer any questions you may have.
  5. Always remember it is better to know the result of an HCV test. Trust your intuition. It could make a difference in the child’s long term health. Likely the worst thing that will happen if you’re wrong is an increase in HCV knowledge and some time. If there is an assumed risk, the benefits of getting an HCV test outweigh the risks of feeling overprotective and the test coming back negative.

All of the information needed to support early screening, linkage to care and prevention efforts is sprinkled across the path before us like bread crumbs. We simply need a willingness to follow them. And if we do, I believe they’ll lead us to a population that has gone largely unheard.

These adolescents, children and infants who are becoming silent victims of HCV are not doing so by choice, but by circumstance. None of us is isolated or has all the answers. Truthfully, there are no “easy” answers, no “clear” paths and no “absolute” certainty about the right way to address the opioid, heroin, HIV and HCV epidemic.

Whatever we do and however we do it, it always starts by with looking at the information we have available and really listening to those we talk with every day. Then we make a decision keeping the possible risks in mind and try not discount the value of our intuition when making a decision.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.