Foster families needed in midst of Ohio’s startling drug epidemic

An estimated half of all children in foster care are there because one or both of their parents are drug addicts

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(FILE - AP Photo)

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The drug crisis gets bigger every day, with parents dying and others going to jail.

The children are the ones who also pay an enormous price.

In Ohio, there are 15,000 children in foster care, as of August 5, according to Attorney General Mike DeWine. He also estimated that half of the children in the system are there due to an adult’s addiction.

There are only 7,200 licensed families to give them a home, however.

“So as these kids linger in temporary foster care, don’t find a kinship placement, they’re going to be available for adoption,” said Cheryl Tarantino, executive director of Northeast Ohio Adoption Services. “So we’re thinking in the next six to nine months, there’s going to be a lot more kids available for adoption than we’ve ever seen.”

The ideal situation is to keep children with their own blood relatives, but that has been a challenge with multiple members of a family getting addicted to drugs.

Ohio is a county custodial state, meaning counties are in charge of a child’s welfare. But those agencies are strapped and begin to rely on providers like Northeast Ohio Adoption Services for help.

“We’re constantly trying to help as many of these counties as we can, because they’re desperate, and they’re having to place them out of state and separate siblings,” said Tarantino. “That goes against the core beliefs of any of us working in child welfare. Kids at least need to be with their siblings if they can’t be with mom and dad.”

The Ohio Attorney General has put together a checklist of requirements for Ohioans who want to be a foster parent. You can find that on the Ohio Attorney General’s website.

“27 Investigates: Heroin Crisis, Impact on Families” will air at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 13 on WKBN 27 First News and WKBN.com.

This is the third panel discussion that WKBN has held on the issue. See all of WKBN 27 First News’ stories on the epidemic in our “Heroin Crisis” section.

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