Heroin epidemic forcing more kids into foster care, state funding falling short

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – The opiate crisis is forcing more children into foster care, but is funding keeping pace with need?

Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO) are calling children of addicts the “invisible victims” of the epidemic. According to PCSAO, there are nearly 14,000 Ohio children in agency custody. That’s up 19 percent since 2009, but there’s been no new funding from the state.

PDF: Impact of Opiates on Ohio’s Child Protection System

“We’ve had these increase of cases, but no new investments, so our counties are just really overwhelmed at this point,” said PCSAO executive director Angela Sausser. “We need more foster homes. We need more adoptive homes. We need more resources for our case workers.”

Georgina Bocook is a recovering heroin addict and mother of five children under the age of 14.

“There were times when my kids wouldn’t eat. There were times when my kids wouldn’t shower,” said Bocook. “There were times when my kids wouldn’t get and go to school. They’d have dirty clothes… all because I wanted to get high.”

She says her children are in safe, loving homes while she’s getting help at MaryHaven.

“I’m learning how to be the mother I know I can be,” said Bocook. “It’s not fair to the children that they have to live through our disease with us.”

She knows firsthand the importance of the foster care system for parents who are addicts.

“My child’s not following me into strange houses shooting dope and to know that my child is safe, I respect them for that,” said Bocook.

Sausser says you can help by supporting local levies to support child services or by fostering and adopting children.

“These kids have witnessed their parents overdosing. They’ve witnessed their parents being gone to go out and purchase heroin, not returning home sometimes for days. They’ve been through some very traumatic experiences,” said Sausser. “We are really trying to have the state bring us to the table to start thinking through what we can do for these children.”

Click here if you’re interested in becoming a foster parent. 

Click here if you’re interested in adopting a child.