There is a major shortage in foster parents needed to care for children displaced by opioid addiction, and it’s causing a crisis in Ohio.
State Attorney General Mike DeWine called the shortage a “tragedy” and “emergency” Thursday and asked families across the state to open their doors to children in need of a stable home. There are roughly 15,000 kids currently in Ohio’s foster care system, but only 7,200 families willing to care for them, reports WKBN.
In Trumbull County the rate of children entering foster care has spiked 30 percent since 2010, largely fueled by heroin addiction. Nearly every one of the county’s 70 licensed foster homes are currently at capacity.
“There is a growing chasm between the number of available foster families and the increasing number of children who enter the child welfare system because one or both of their parents are drug addicts,” DeWine said in a statement Thursday. “Today I want to issue a call to Ohioans who may be interested in being a foster parent. I ask them to make that leap and open their home to a kid or kids who could use a stable, loving home.”
Ohio is being hit particularly hard by the national opioid epidemic, which claimed an estimated 60,000 lives in the U.S. in 2016. The opioid death rate in the state spiked 13 percent between 2014 and 2015, among the largest increases in the country. Heroin deaths increased by nearly 20 percent over the same period, claiming 1,444 lives.
Social services in almost every state across the country are experiencing increases in children needing foster care, and officials are nearing a breaking point.
Officials from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said in 2015 that roughly 428,000 kids were in foster care, and note that number has likely experienced a significant increase due to skyrocketing drug abuse rates in 2016. Drug addiction is now the second leading cause for removal from parental custody, following child neglect, which social workers note is often exacerbated by drug use in the home.
A staggering 85,937 children entered foster care due to parental drug use in the U.S. in 2015, according to data from the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.
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