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Crisis in Ohio's Foster Care System Worsens

The Public Children Services Association of Ohio expects that, by next Christmas, it could be 2,000 more children entering state custody because of the opioid epidemic if the current trajectory continues. (Pixabay)
The Public Children Services Association of Ohio expects that, by next Christmas, it could be 2,000 more children entering state custody because of the opioid epidemic if the current trajectory continues. (Pixabay)
December 22, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – One thousand more Ohio children will be spending their holidays in foster care this year compared with 2016 as the opioid crisis continues to take an unprecedented toll in breaking families apart. Ohio's foster-care system is bursting at the seams with an alarming trend, showing abused and neglected children left hoping to be placed in forever homes throughout the holidays.

According to the report by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio, more than 15,500 children are in the custody of Ohio's child-service agencies. The organization's assistant director, Scott Britton, says that's a 23 percent increase over 2016.

"In fact, if this trajectory continues, we're looking at the possibility of having 20,000 children in agency custody by 2020, and that will undoubtedly explode our children's services agencies budget," he warns.

Across Ohio, more than half the cases of children being removed from their parents' care in 2016 were due to parental drug use. While the state has committed $30 million in new money for child services through 2019, it's still in the shadows of 175 million in expected need, if the current trend continues.

Britton says it's already tough for a child to navigate through an already beleaguered foster-care system, coping with problems that so many can't even bear. He says often a better scenario is kinship care, where a child is placed with a close relative. But he says that option sometimes is equally problematic with the growing generational addiction of opioids.

"It can be difficult finding kin who are not themselves addicted, but even when we do there is a lot of stress on these grandparents who are living on fixed budgets, on these aunts who have to pay for even more child care," he laments.

Britton says the state has done good work in helping to expand kinship care, but he says a lot more needs to be done to reverse the overall alarming trend in the foster care system including, increased funding to cover foster-care placement costs and the recruitment of more foster and adoptive homes.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - OH