WARREN, Ohio (WKBN) – With more and more parents battling addiction in Ohio, the number of kids being placed into the child welfare system has increased dramatically. Now, Attorney General Mike DeWine is calling the need for foster families an emergency.
It’s a message Trumbull County Children Services has been spreading for over a year now.
The Attorney General’s Office said as of earlier this month, 15,000 children were in foster care, with only 7,200 foster families filling that need.
There are nearly 3,000 more children in the system now than when the opioid crisis started seven years ago. DeWine’s office said an estimated half of all children in foster care are there because one or both of their parents are drug addicts.
The number of children coming into Trumbull County Children Services’ custody has increased by 30 percent, largely because of the heroin epidemic.
“We have been hit really, really hard and it doesn’t appear to be going away,” said foster care supervisor Deedee Prezioso.
Of the roughly 70 licensed foster homes in Trumbull County, nearly all of them are full.
The problem is rising across the state, too, which is why DeWine is calling on more Ohioans to open their homes.
“We now have a widespread shortage of foster families in Ohio for these children. This is a tragedy and it certainly is an emergency,” he said.
Julie Stimpert has been a foster parent for about ten years.
“It’s not always easy but the rewards far outweigh that,” she said.
Stimpert has taken care of more than a dozen children short-term and recently adopted five of her foster kids.
“It’s an amazing gift to give to children, to give them their safety and help them work through the trauma they’re going through,” she said.
Trumbull County Children Services said it needs more loving homes like Stimpert’s.
“Because the need doesn’t appear to be going away, we really will take as many calls and good homes as we can get,” Prezioso said.
For more information on foster care and to find out how to foster a child, visit the designated section on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.
Trumbull County Children Services also offers resources and information on foster care and adoption on its website.