DeWine: Opioid epidemic putting foster care system in crisis

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The opioid epidemic is racking up so many victims officials said it is putting the foster care system in a crisis.

The Ohio Attorney General and foster providers said more foster families are desperately needed.

Officials said at present there are 15,000 children in foster care across the state, and only 7,200 foster families, leaving organizations like (SAFY) Specialized Alternatives for Families & Youth, scrambling to recruit more foster families.

“We have today in Ohio a foster care crisis of immense proportions,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine.

He said statistics show half of all children in foster care are there because one or both parents are drug addicts.

“Just in the last two weeks in Fairfield County we have had two different families impacting a total of four children who had to learn of the death of a parent due to an overdose,” said Kristi Burre, Deputy Director of Protective Services at the Fairfield County Job & Family Services.

She said a lot more families are needed to step forward and help with the foster care shortage.

Kate Yonkura is a foster family member raising four of her own children, and foster six more.

“We need two-parent homes, we need one parent homes, we need retirees, empty-nesters, we need families who are raising their kids now, we need nurses we need everybody… we really need everybody,” she said.

According to state statistics there are nearly 3,000 more children in the child welfare system now than when the opioid crisis began seven years ago.

“These children have been traumatized by abuse and neglect and often times removing them from their families and community is just as traumatizing if not more,” Burre said.

The state is expediting background checks for new foster families and the Attorney General’s office is giving $1 million over a two year period to 10 counties to help them fund staff and recruit new foster families.

Those counties will have to come up with 20 percent matching funds to qualify. DeWine said the counties have not been selected yet.

If you would like to become a foster family or need more information about the foster care crisis, check out the links below.

www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/FosterFamilies

http://www.buckeyeranch.org/

www.SAFY.org

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