WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – Trumbull County Children Services says the number of kids in need of someone to take care of them is rapidly growing as the heroin epidemic worsens.
Last year, the number of fatal overdoses in Ohio rose to more than 1,400. It’s because of those numbers that many children find themselves alone.
“It’s not something that anyone has seen before in child welfare,” said Trumbull County Children Services Executive Director Tim Schaffner. “We’ve got more kids in care in the past year than we’ve seen in past trends.”
The number of children in their care is up by about 40 percent and officials only expect it to keep going up.
“Heroin addiction, it’s a primary pathological relationship with a substance that’s chronic and debilitating. Parents simply lose their ability to parent, their parent instinct,” Schaffner said.
He says over half of the cases opened in Trumbull County last year were a direct result of the opiate epidemic.
“Most people who are addicted to a substance have a trauma history in their own lives, and it’s contributing to the trauma history for their children,” he said. “So we’ll see a generational consequence for this, too.”
April Caraway with the Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Board agrees that the drug problem is generational.
“We’re seeing generational issues today with addiction and that’s why we’re seeing so many problems with, what do we do with the kids? How do we keep them safe?”
That’s the million dollar question that so many mental health experts are trying to answer. For now, they are focusing their efforts on prevention and education.
“When kids are raised in a home that’s ‘sick’ where they’re not maybe getting the message that this is dangerous, they have to get it from school,” Caraway said.
Schaffner says the heroin epidemic has increased the need for foster families everywhere.