This story about the\u00a0opioid crisis and foster care\u00a0was produced as part of a series,\u00a0\u201cTwice Abandoned: How schools and child-welfare systems fail kids in foster care,\u201d\u00a0reported by\u00a0HuffPost\u00a0and\u00a0The Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on\u00a0inequality and innovation in education.\u00a0 Lafayette, Indiana \u2015 There were about three agonizing weeks between the moment Jodie Hicks called child protective services on her son and the moment her granddaughter, Tessa, was taken out of his care. She didn\u2019t want to make the call. What kind of mother calls the authorities on her son? And worse, what if her call made Tessa\u2019s situation more difficult? She knew her son would be furious when he found out about it. If authorities didn\u2019t find anything wrong at his home and he cut off contact, Tessa would be left to languish. But she had seen what went on in her drug using son\u2019s house and felt she had no other options. Her granddaughter, 4, was living in a filthy place where drug users came and went. She spent most of her time alone. She wasn\u2019t properly being cared for. Hicks, who works for an organization providing services for homeless families, had always kept a watchful eye on Tessa, providing stability and support amid the child\u2019s chaotic home life. Those weeks \u2015 during which, Hicks said, her son quickly figured out she had made the call and inundated her with angry messages \u2015 she had no sense of what Tessa could be facing. \u201cThere\u2019s this little being there, who has no control over her life and is being subjected to things she has no say over,\u201d Hicks said of her granddaughter. \u201cAnything can happen during that time.\u201d Tessa \u2015 now 7 and in the first grade \u2015 is part of a generation of children who are having unprecedented contact with child welfare system as the opioid crisis continues to ravage the lives of the adults around them. In Indiana, where Tessa lives, the situation is especially dire. Indiana\u2019s foster care intake has\u00a0more than doubled since 2001, the sharpest increase in the nation. And while the nationwide rate of foster care entrances is not as high as it was at its peak in 2005, many states have seen\u00a0drastic increases\u00a0in recent years. Between 2012 and 2016, the number of kids in foster care around the country rose by\u00a010 percent. More of these kids were being removed from their home due to parental drug use, according to data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System. Physicians and counselors struggle with how to treat opioid-addicted pregnant women and their children, who are born into withdrawal. But for the kids who are already here, it is their grandparents, foster parents, teachers and school administrators who are on the front lines of this crisis. The statistics for foster youth are bleak: Just 58 percent of youth involved with the foster care system have graduated from high school by age 19, compared to\u00a087 percent of the general population. And while new requirements in the 2015 federal law governing education, the\u00a0Every Student Succeeds Act, are designed to help this population, a Hechinger Report\/HuffPost survey has found that many states are not living up to the law\u2019s promise. Hicks wasn\u2019t about to allow Tessa into the care of strangers. So when Tessa\u2019s parents tested positive for drugs and authorities took Tessa from their home, she went to live with Hicks \u2015 a process known as kinship care. Hicks, 54, and her husband, Kevin O\u2019Brien, Tessa\u2019s 65-year-old step-grandfather, suddenly had a young child living under their roof.\u00a0Both had already raised children to adulthood. Now, instead of spending their nights with friends and going out to restaurants, they were shuttling their energetic granddaughter between dance lessons, voice lessons, therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and play dates. The transition was somewhat jarring, isolating Hicks and O\u2019Brien from their friends and their former lives \u2015 until they realized how many grandparents and great-grandparents were in the exact same position. \u201cThat\u2019s the thing that shocked me more than anything,\u201d said O\u2019Brien, who is now retired after decades working at Eli Lilly and Company, the pharmaceutical company. \u201cThe number of people around town raising grandkids or helping raise their great-grandkids, it\u2019s crazy. In some ways, you probably hope you\u2019re the only one.\u201d Life, interrupted The day child protective services came to get Tessa from her parents\u2019 house, authorities gave her around 10 minutes to get her stuff and say goodbye. It was chaos. But three years later, her daily life is characterized by routine. On a Monday evening in August, Tessa climbed up O\u2019Brien\u2019s legs as if he were a tree. She wore glasses with pink rims and a T-shirt that read, \u201cAin\u2019t a woman alive that can take my grandma\u2019s place,\u201d referencing a Tupac Shakur song. The family ate at Tessa\u2019s favorite pizza spot, and she munched slices of cheese pizza while singing out loud to \u201cBeliever\u201d by Imagine Dragons. She appeared a typical 7-year-old in every way, unless you listened closely. Tessa has a speech and language disorder, making her difficult to understand at times. It\u2019s an issue that was apparent early and should have been addressed when she was a toddler. But Tessa\u2019s parents never followed up in getting her speech therapy, even after much prodding from Hicks, Hicks said. Now, Tessa\u2019s playing catch up. She spends two hours a week with a speech therapist, both in school and after. She\u2019s about a year behind academically, too. Tessa has dyslexia, dysgraphia and some sensory processing issues that make her sensitive to loud noises and crowds. She spends part of the school day in a resource room working on her reading skills. Hicks doesn\u2019t know how much of this could have been prevented. When Tessa was living with her parents, she spent many days alone, sometimes locked in her bedroom. She fetched her own food from the refrigerator, even as a toddler, Hicks said. She ate lots of sugar and junk food, and when she started living with Hicks and O\u2019Brien, she was underweight.\u00a0She was almost like a \u201clittle feral animal,\u201d Hicks said of when Tessa first came to live with them. And then there\u2019s all the trauma, which she still may not have processed. On a day-to-day basis, Tessa is a happy, friendly girl who likes school and going to car shows with O\u2019Brien \u2015 whom she calls by his first name, Kevin. But Hicks knows that her granddaughter \u2015 a girl she said is impossible not to love, a girl who is always dancing and is so obsessed with the movie \u201cFrozen\u201d that she has memorized \u201cLet It Go\u201d in multiple languages \u2015 has experienced unimaginable pain. Tessa recently told her therapist that an adult touched her in bad ways as a toddler. Hicks doesn\u2019t know who the perpetrator was \u2015 it was not one of her parents \u2015 but assumes it was one in a rotating cast of drug users passing through Tessa\u2019s life. Going to live with her grandparents, unfortunately, wasn\u2019t a magic bullet for Tessa\u2019s pain. Her parents had a difficult time maintaining their visitation schedule. Tessa\u2019s mom and dad were required to arrive together, but sometimes one was late and the visit would be canceled. Each no-show was another heartbreak, until eventually, Tessa became resigned to the fact that she couldn\u2019t count on her parents, O\u2019Brien said. \u201cIt caused a lot of emotional trauma,\u201d O\u2019Brien said. \u201cWhen she would come home, she would be problematic and not do anything she\u2019s supposed to do.\u201d After a while, Tessa stopped trusting her parents would show up. The visiting sessions became inconsistent. Tessa now has a stable relationship with her father, Justin, though she hasn\u2019t had contact with her mother in about a year. She sees her dad often, under the supervision of her grandmother. He loves his daughter dearly and treasures hearing her stories about school and adventures with friends. Justin is now clean and no longer upset with his mother. Instead, he\u2019s appreciative of the life she and her husband have given Tessa. She regularly goes out to dinner. Hicks and O\u2019Brien have taken her on vacation to Florida. These are things Justin says he\u2019d never be able to provide. Justin no longer sees Tessa\u2019s mother or his friends from that time. When he looks around, he sees many people in his situation \u2015 or worse. \u201cThere\u2019s no such thing as a functioning heroin addict,\u201d he said. \u201cA lot of the people I know just couldn\u2019t \u2015 didn\u2019t want to give it up for their kids. So they lost \u2019em.\u201d Hicks and O\u2019Brien worked to make sure Tessa could attend a local public school that would fit her needs. Her grandparents are vigilant about her school work. They have permanent custody rights, so she no longer has to interact with caseworkers from child protective services. She attends a local elementary school, where Matt Rhoda is the principal. In the small school, Tessa\u2019s situation isn\u2019t so unusual. Rhoda says he knows of at least six grandparents raising grandchildren in the school \u2015 a number that seems to be climbing. Still, \u201c seems to be thriving,\u201d he said.\u00a0She might be behind, but if she continues on this track, she could catch up. Back to school blues Around the country, and in Indiana especially, there\u2019s been an influx of students just like Tessa who are still in the foster care system. And in many ways, schools haven\u2019t yet figured out how to educate them. It is the job of people like Donna Walker to help schools figure it out. Walker works as an educational liaison with Child Advocates, a group in Indianapolis that provides legal representation for children who have suffered abuse or neglect. Walker\u2019s job is to help advocate for the educational needs of foster care kids who are struggling most in schools. Guardians who represent the children in court refer their most intense cases to the educational liaisons. When the program started in 2011, Donna and another employee worked as educational liaisons on a consultant basis and split around 140 cases between them. By 2017, the program had five full-time employees, a part-time employee, and over 1,080 cases. \u201cWe have overwhelmed systems serving overwhelmed families with traumatized children,\u201d said Walker, who spent 35 years working as a teacher and administrator for public schools, and has seen schools become much more responsive to trauma over time. On a given day, Walker typically visits between three and five schools in the area. She knows them all well. She has students who have moved about 20 times over the course of only a few years \u2015 bouncing between foster parents and relatives \u2015 but she tries her best to limit school changes. The odds of education success can be long for these students: Less than 3 percent of kids who are involved with foster care earn a\u00a0college degree by the age of 25. Still, Walker said, \u201cfor a lot of them, school is the anchor. They\u2019ve been in multiple foster homes. It\u2019s their safe place.\u201d On a Thursday afternoon in May, Walker met with a local teacher about an elementary school child who could barely make it through the school day. This child didn\u2019t live with his mom or dad, or even his grandma or grandpa. He lived with his great-grandpa. His parents and grandparents were either drug users, in and out of jail, or simply unable to care for him. And while living with his great-grandpa seems preferable to living with a foster family, the situation is far from ideal. With little supervision, the child often stays up late at night watching television. His great-grandpa works long hours and is at work way before the school bus comes. On some days, there\u2019s no one to make sure the child gets to school. He complains of constant stomachaches and tells his great-grandpa he fears child protective services will take him away and put him in a foster home. When he does go to school, he has a hard time staying awake. In class, after he greets classmates and gets breakfast, he promptly lays his head on his desk and goes to sleep. His teacher can\u2019t seem to make him stay awake. Getting any child to sit down, focus and practice spelling and math equations can be difficult, even in the best of situations. But for a child who doesn\u2019t have someone tucking him into bed at night or putting him on the bus in the morning and who is living in constant fear that he will be taken away from his guardian, it is near impossible. The adults also suspect this child has serious medical issues. But if he does, will he receive the proper care? Walker and his teacher brainstormed strategies to keep him engaged. The problem is, he\u2019s not even the neediest kid in the classroom, the teacher said. Traumatized students and overworked teachers On a day-to-day basis, Walker meets with teachers and school leaders who are trying their best to reach traumatized students.\u00a0Sometimes their efforts fall short, no matter how hard they work. But sometimes they have tremendous success. That May morning, Walker also met with a 15-year-old client of hers who had only just started to attend school. For years, he had been kept in his home, not allowed to leave, until child protective services found him. Starting over at school years behind his grade level and in classes with younger children could have been a mountain of frustration for the teen. But he is thriving, soaking up new information at a surprising rate. \u201cWe did the right thing here. Not one I question. Some I do. But this one not,\u201d said Walker in a meeting with his teachers in May. That\u2019s why she doesn\u2019t lose hope. She knows what\u2019s possible with the right combination of support and school culture. But some schools are still struggling to meet the needs of these kids \u2013 often allowing them to slip through the cracks as they bounce between schools and families. One of the biggest barriers to these students\u2019 success is their transience. Studies show that foster youth lose\u00a0four to six months\u00a0of learning every time they change schools. In the rush to make sure students find a suitable home placement, educational stability is sometimes put on the back burner. The Every Student Succeeds Act\u00a0is designed to tackle this. For the first time, the 2015 education law requires states to report graduation rates for foster youth. It also includes a provision designed to help students stay in the same school even if they move homes. This provision calls on states to work with schools and child welfare agencies to provide school transportation for these students even if they are no longer living nearby. But a Hechinger\/HuffPost survey of 44 state education agencies showed that states are struggling to meet the new standards. The law sets a December deadline for states to comply with its provision on reporting graduation rates. But more than one-quarter of states surveyed reported that graduation rates for foster youth wouldn\u2019t be available until next year at the earliest, and many other states had just begun to collect the data. In Indiana, the state education agency expects to publish that information for the first time by Dec. 31. Only four states could identify the rate at which foster youth graduate from high school \u2014 and those results were grim. In Georgia, just 11 percent of foster youth completed high school within four years; in Colorado, 23.6 percent did, and in California, 51.1 percent did. Nebraska\u2019s graduation rate for 2015-16, the most recent year available, was 51.4 percent. And while the new law has prompted states to assign staff members to coordinate between child welfare and education agencies and take other steps to help foster youth in school, evidence of improvement is scant so far. Only three states could report concrete evidence that they\u2019d been able to keep youth from cycling through schools as they moved between foster homes, a big barrier to these students\u2019 educational success and a focus of the law. The vast majority of states said they had no plans to track that information or didn\u2019t have it available. In Indiana \u2015 where children are put in foster care at\u00a0twice the national rate\u00a0\u2015 the issues facing foster care youth are particularly severe. In December 2017, the longtime director of the state\u2019s Department of Child Services resigned,\u00a0writing in a scathing letter\u00a0that without changes to the department, \u201cI fear lives will be lost and families ruined.\u201d The leader, Mary Beth Bonaventura, said she was responding to budget cuts, leadership changes and complacency over outmoded technology. In response, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb (R) ordered an independent review of the Department of Child Services that found the agency had a number of strengths \u2015 including a high rate of kids placed in the care of relatives as opposed to outside families \u2015 but also faced a number of challenges. A Department of Child Services report\u00a0from September\u00a0revealed that in 2016, 59 Indiana kids had died as a result of abuse or neglect, down from 77 the previous year. Richard Wexler, executive director of the National Coalition For Child Protection Reform, disputes the idea that budget cuts are the cause of Indiana\u2019s woes, noting that Indiana actually spends generously on child welfare. He thinks there are deeper reasons behind the high rate of family separations in Indiana. There\u2019s an underlying hostility toward drug-users in the state, Wexler said, even if the drug is comparatively benign, like marijuana. The system is quick to separate families whether or not there is evidence of child endangerment. \u201cThe presumption is immediate: Substance abuse equals child abuse equals removal. None of those presumptions are correct. All of them may apply in some cases. None applies in most cases,\u201d Wexler said. Asked why Indiana might have such a high rate of children in foster care, a Department of Child Services spokeswoman suggested there wasn\u2019t one specific cause. \u201cSince 2013, our child abuse and neglect hotline has seen a 30 percent increase in calls, which has resulted in a rise in assessments of children perceived as being in potentially dangerous situations,\u201d the spokeswoman, Noelle Russell, wrote by email. \u201cWe do attribute the increase partly to more public awareness of Indiana\u2019s status as a mandatory reporting state.\u201d She noted that $25 million had recently been allocated to the department from a state surplus and that changes were underway. A new normal The number of cases that land on Walker\u2019s desk keeps climbing. She and her colleagues have had many successes. But she knows she\u2019s not reaching all the children who need help. She thinks a lot about all the children she isn\u2019t serving \u2015 those that are inevitably falling through the cracks. Or the students she is serving who have grown weary and tired. In this job, she has seen traditional family structures turned upside down. She thinks of two of her students \u2015 siblings in fourth and sixth grade \u2015 who are on their 17th placement, now living hours away from their original home because it\u2019s the only place where foster parents were available. There\u2019s also the high school students who have become de-facto caregivers for their younger siblings while still needing their own care, and grandparents and great-grandparents who have to forgo a traditional retirement and instead tend to the needs of their relatives. Grandparents' parenting Hicks and O\u2019Brien used to joke that they would be bad at co-parenting. They would count their blessings that they met after their kids were already grown. But some of these differences have proven helpful. O\u2019Brien is more strict than Hicks, and Hicks has come to appreciate the structure he provides. They\u2019ve gotten used to spending nights performing scenes from the movie \u201cCoco\u201d with Tessa, as tired as it might make them. They haven\u2019t gotten used to news about all the friends and neighbors who are also raising grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Such news has become eerily routine. Tessa\u2019s best friend from school is also living with grandparents. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot of young people dying,\u201d Hicks said from her kitchen table. \u201cWe see it in the paper every week. They\u2019re going to keep using until they either die, or we get some treatment program that will help people who don\u2019t have money.\u201d \u201cUntil then, kids are going to keep getting turned over to other people.\u201d Sarah Butrymowicz and Caroline Preston contributed reporting to this article.