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Children Of Heroin Addicts Are Flooding State Foster Care Programs

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Social services are finding themselves overwhelmed by the influx of children needing foster care, which officials say is being driven by increased heroin abuse.

Roughly 70 percent of children under the age of one who were placed in Ohio foster care in 2015 came as a direct result of opioid abuse, mostly in the form of heroin. Officials say the majority of kids who enter their custody will never return to living with their parents, and the problem appears to be accelerating. Statewide, 28 percent of all foster cases are related to heroin and other drugs, but the rate significantly varies between communities, reports WCPO.

Rural areas in the state have the highest rates of opioid abuse. More than 50 percent of all foster cases in Clermont County in 2016 resulted from heroin or other drug abuse. One couple in Clermont recently beat the odds and were reunited with their children after losing them to foster care in Sept. 2014.

“When they walked the kids away from me – that was enough,” Steve Kippenberg told WCPO. “That was our bottom. After they took the kids, we walked into a homeless shelter and we gave it up.”

Steve and Fawn Kippenberg were able to successfully complete an addiction recovery program with Clermont’s Family Dependency Treatment Court and eventually won back custody of their children. The pair admit addiction will be a lifelong struggle they fight everyday.

Opioids are the main driver of a 19 percent spike in the number of kids removed from parental custody for foster care since 2010 across Ohio. Officials are blaming the heroin scourge for a record amount of calls to Hamilton County Job and Family Services. Their phone line for reporting child abuse and neglect usually receives roughly 300 to 450 calls per month, but that number surged to 700 in October.

Ohio is not the only state experiencing the disturbing trend. The Wisconsin Department of Health Services revealed the rate of babies born exposed to opioids more than quadrupled over the past decade. Officials recorded 598 babies born with an opioid addiction in 2015, up from 142 cases in 2006. In Missouri at least eight-in-1,000 babies born will now suffer opioid withdrawals, an increase of 538 percent since 2006.

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