Miami Valley foster care feeling the effects of heroin epidemic

Child in foster care in Montgomery County

(WDTN) — The heroin epidemic continues to grip the Miami Valley and that’s led to a boom in the amount of children entering the foster care system.

At hundreds of homes across the area, you’ll find people caring for children who aren’t their own.

These kids are the voiceless victims of the opioid crisis.

“We have saturated the market as a community and I’m not talking just about Montgomery County,” said Jewell Good from Montgomery County Children’s Services.

Officials with Children’s Services face an alarming reality, a growing number of kids who need a temporary home, and a shrinking number of foster parents.

“We had a 6-year-old that we thought was going to spend a weekend in our system, in the building, staying all night because we couldn’t find a resource,” Good said. “A sister county to the south says they can’t find placement for babies.”

In Montgomery County alone, 25 kids in January and 40 kids in February went into the foster care system. With another 40 in March, officials say it’s a much higher trend compared to the first quarter of 2016. Another trend– roughly 195 children in custody today are newborn to three years old.

Some people are trying to help, like the Swafford family. After sending two of their boys off to school each morning, Cynid Swafford now stays home with three other children. Two of the babies in her care are there because of heroin.

“We experienced the tremoring and we experienced the irritability and the, you know, constant crying and lack of sleep and GI issues, constant spitting up, just severe diaper rash, different things like that,” Cyndi Swafford said.

Cyndi and her husband Jesse have cared for 13 kids. Of those, 10 were in foster care as a result of opiates.

“It weights heavy on my heart that our beds are full,” Cyndi Swafford says. ” You know, do we open up more beds?”

“Do we just keep doing what we’re doing here and find other ways to impact the system? I don’t know.”

While the Swaffords search for new ways to fill the void, Caleb and Tricia Klay are filling beds in their home as well.

“These are just things that they made,” Tricia Klay said. “This says I love Tricia very mush… it’s supposed to say much.”

“This is from Christmas, the best gift is a mom and dad, I just thought that was sweet.”

For the past year, the Klays have been mom and dad to 6-year-old twins.

“We were looking out that door and see these two boys come out of a van, and come running into the house,” Tricia Klay said.

Though the boys are not suffering physically, the Klays say the boys are also victims of the heroin epidemic.

They say, explaining that to a child is difficult.

“You know, mommy really loves you, but she’s sick,” Tricia Klay said.

Along with the difficult questions, foster families face uncertainty.

The Klays know, in their case, the goal is to one day reunite the boys with their biological mother. They think about that possible future every day.

“This is probably where we get emotional,: Tricia Klay said. “We love these boys.”

“They feel like they’re our own. And so we often hear, well why would you do that? Or people who are interested in foster care will tell us ‘I could never do that because I couldn’t let them go.’ And our response to that is– you could, because they’re worth it.”

But, many children never go back to their birth parents. Officials with Children’s Services say nearly half of the children in Montgomery County’s foster care system are in permanent custody, with another 47 cases pending.

That means those children are now available for adoption.

The rise in numbers is being seen in almost every county in the Miami Valley. For more information about those statistics, and information about how to become a foster parent, click on the links posted below.

Montgomery county: http://www.mcohio.org/departments/children_services/foster_care_and_adoption/foster_parenting.php

 

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