Number of Ohio Children in Foster Care is Soaring as Opiate Addiction Crisis Ravages Families

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Earlier this year, state attorney general Mike DeWine called for more Ohio families to step forward and join the foster care network. There was a growing need, according to his office, shaped in large part by the sprawling and deadly opiate addiction crisis.

When we reached out to the office, employees there confirmed that dozens of families had taken up the call. And while that’s still not nearly enough, any increase is a good thing: Now, more than 15,500 children are living in foster care. That’s a substantial increase from 12,600 or so in 2013. The trend shows no sign of slowing down, not unlike the increasing death toll from opiate overdoses in the state.

Last year, 4,050 Ohioans fatally overdoses. The children left behind fall into the hands of grandparents — often unsuspecting retirees who haven’t raised school-age children in decades — and the state’s foster care system.

In December, the state attorney general’s office selected eight counties to be recipients of a grant-funded pilot program that will boost foster family recruitment efforts; Cuyahoga County was among those selected. The Waiting Child Fund will support a full-time staff member in those counties, connecting prospective families to the state’s bank of resources.

In Cuyahoga County, more than 2,000 children have entered the foster care system in a trend that tracks closely with our overdose crisis.

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