SUMMIT COUNTY, Ohio - The number of children in Ohio’s foster care system is on the rise due to the growing opioid epidemic. Over the holidays there were a thousand more children placed into the system than in 2016.
In Summit County, there's been a spike just in the last month.
“During the holiday time, we hope the kids can be with their families, and we do everything that we can't prevent removal, but within the last month, we've had an additional 19 children come into custody of Summit County Children Services,” said Ann Ream, Summit County Children Services Director of Community Relations.
Summit County Children Services reports a 20 percent increase of children coming into the foster care system since 2012. About 70 percent of those children have parents dealing with drugs and addiction.
Ream called the children caught in the opioid epidemic silent victims.
“It is shocking, and fortunately, the numbers are hatching up, and their placement cost is attached to that as well,” Ream said.
To deal with the rising numbers and costs, Summit County Children Services is launching two new programs in 2018.
“I'm hoping that with some of these efforts that the grants will be able to help our families,” Ream said.
One of the programs is a parent support group. Successful foster parents will go through training in Columbus to eventually help new parents. Summit County Children Services is hoping to have the support groups up and running by the Spring.
“It's very helpful for past primary parents to be able to work with and support the need for current client families that need help to navigate the child welfare system,” said Ream.
The department also received a $60,000 grant to streamline the process of finding relatives who may be able to care for children, called the 30 Day-to-Family program.
“Children do better with relatives and relative care,” Ream said.
She added that many people think they are not eligible to be foster parents, when they actually are eligible. If you're interested, contact Summit County Children Services.