Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine on Thursday urged Ohioans to consider becoming foster parents, as the need for foster families has dramatically increased in the face of the opioid epidemic.
DeWine made his comments at a news conference Thursday morning, where he also announced several efforts to help becoming a foster parent easier, including expediting background checks.
“There is a growing chasm between the number of available foster families and the increasing number of children who enter the child welfare system because one or both of their parents are drug addicts,” said DeWine in a press release issued later.
Earlier this year, Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams told local county commissioners that there were 101 children in the foster system in Highland County, costing the county $1.9 million annually for foster home placement.
According to Adams, the cost was higher than normal due to a larger amount of older juveniles and siblings needing placement, as well as children with behavioral problems. There were just 15 foster parents in Highland County, Adams said, meaning many children must be placed in other counties, incurring higher costs.
DeWine said Thursday that the increase in foster children was related in part to the ongoing opioid crisis.
In a previous Times-Gazette examination of the foster care crisis, county commissioner Shane Wilkin said he supported cracking down on drugs, but when children are removed from homes because parents are going to prison, “Who’s going to care for them?”
He said at an average rate of $50 to $60 per day for each child, a drug abuser with three or four children can cost the county $200 a day, indefinitely. Children who are more difficult to place because they pose risk factors, such as having a history of running away, can cost as much as $395 a day to house, said Wilkin at the time. Wilkin and Children Services officials said children in foster care would likely cost the county about $2 million a year.
Adams said in another commissioner meeting earlier this year, “It’s truly due to the opiate epidemic. Caseworkers are first responders. We’re doing work we never thought we’d be doing.”
DeWine on Thursday presented statistics on how the opioid epidemic has impacted Ohio’s child welfare system, including:
* An estimated half of all children in foster care are there because one or both of their parents are drug addicts.
* There are nearly 3,000 more children in the child welfare system today than when the opioid crisis began seven years ago.
* As of August 5th, more than 15,000 children were in foster care in Ohio. However, Ohio has just 7,200 foster families to fill this need.
DeWine announced several directives his office was undertaking to make the process of becoming a foster parent easier, including: the creation of a webpage on the attorney general’s website (www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov/FosterFamilies) to aggregate important information needed for becoming a foster family, and allowing foster parent applicants to expedite their required background checks through a dedicated email address (FosterCheck@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov).
DeWine also announced $1 million in grants to child welfare agencies to fund staff and help recruit new foster families in hard-hit counties.
For more information on becoming a foster parent in Highland County, contact Jodi Kidder, foster care coordinator, at 937-402-5055.