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Opioid Epidemic Boosts Number of OH Kids Needing Loving Homes

There are nearly 13,000 children in the foster care system in Ohio. (Pixabay)
There are nearly 13,000 children in the foster care system in Ohio. (Pixabay)
May 12, 2016

TOLEDO, Ohio - May is Foster Care Month, and efforts are intensifying in Ohio to recruit foster parents. According to state data, there are almost 13,000 children in the foster care system in Ohio, yet only about 7,000 foster parents are available through public agencies to provide care.

At Lucas County Children's Services, executive director Robin Reese said there is an unprecedented need for foster parents and they are hoping to recruit 400 parents in their county alone. She explains more children are being removed from homes due to the opiate and heroin problem in the area.

"We have foster parents that started fostering for maybe one, two children and now they have three and four," she said. "And on any given week we have maybe two to three babies coming in because of this drug epidemic."

Reese adds that most placements are temporary, as the ultimate goal is to reunify the family. During Foster Care Month in May, her agency and others are celebrating the foster parents who open their homes and sacrifice their time to help abused and neglected children, while stepping up efforts to recruit more.

Scott Britton, assistant director of the Public Children Services Association of Ohio explains foster care recruitment agencies have fallen on hard times and lack adequate resources to extensively recruit foster families. So, they developed a uniform messaging campaign to spread the word about the need around Ohio.

"Even across county lines, folks who have been thinking about foster care might see a billboard or a sign or a public service announcement with a consistent message and really start to think about foster care," he said.

Reese said while some Ohioans are reluctant to foster, fearing it's too difficult, she believes most people are more capable than they realize.

"They think, 'All those kids have special needs,' but the needs are special because they've been abused or neglected not necessarily because their needs are so great," she said. "We do have kids that have been traumatized but with the right match-up, I promise you the outcomes are so good."

She adds that foster parents receive stipends and other supports. To become a foster parent, Ohioans must be at least age 21 years of age, have sufficient income, and go through training and an in-home assessment.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH