Foster care numbers connected to opioid epidemic

This Tuesday, Aug. 15, 2017 photo shows an arrangement of pills of the opioid oxycodone-acetaminophen in New York. (AP Photo/Patrick Sison)

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – The opioid epidemic straining the foster system remains a problem and officials say children continue to be separated from their families because of addiction.

Cyndi Swafford and her husband Jesse have been caring for foster children for years. She said she’s cared for 14 children – more than half of them landed in foster care because of the county’s drug epidemic.

“We’ve been fostering specifically because of the need that we’ve seen and the knowledge that children are in the system who don’t really have any other choice,” Swafford said.

“I am still hearing there is a significant need, a significant problem with children still continuing to come in due to the opioid problem.”

Montgomery County officials say there are 650 children or more in the foster care system on any given day.

Montgomery County Alcohol, Drug Addiction, and Metal Health Services executive director Helen Jones-Kelley said substance abuse has always contributed to the problem.

“Even before this epidemic hit, you always had significant number of youth coming into foster care because of parental misuse of some substance,” Jones-Kelley said.

She said the problem is exacerbated by the dwindling number of people available to provide foster care.

“Even the pool of people who would be available as foster parents may also be struggling with the opioid epidemic, either themselves or for a loved one,” Jones-Kelley said.

Montgomery County is one of eight counties that are participating in a new foster family recruitment program by Attorney General Mike DeWine.

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