Officials Say Ohio Opioid Crisis Is Impacting Foster Youth

  • 5/21/2019 3:21:38 PM
  • WMFD Digital Team
  • Local News

ASHLAND, OH - Ashland County officials as well as representatives from "Fight Crime: Invest In Kids" held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss how opioids are impacting the nation's youth, especially those in the Foster Care industry. 

A new research breif called "Foster Care Youth: The Innocent Victims of the Opioid Epidemic" details that Ohio's opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact over the past decade which will have a negative long term impact on the lvies of vulnerable children. 

Over 5,000 Ohioans overdosed in 2017, according to the report. The brief also shows the rise in opioid use has been associated with the rise in foster care placements. The number of children in care increasing nationally by 12 percent from 2012 to 2017. Mor than a third of foster care placements in 2017 listed parental substance abuse as a reason for removal. 

Representatives from "Fight Crime: Invest In Kids" state that Governor Mike DeWine and legislators are seeking to provide nearly $120 million in new resources to build up and support vulnerable youth in Ohio. 

"These new dollars are critical in the opioid battle because foster care youth are some of the most vulnerable and at-risk children having experienced instability and often maltreatment from their very earliest years," Ashland County Sheriff E. Wayne Risner stated. "This along with the trauma of being removed from their parents and placed in temporary housing is why more than half of foster care youth have significant mental health problems that include depression, social problems, anxiety, and PTSD."

The brief also states that one in five children experience three or more mental health problems. When foster kids "age out" (when they reach the age of 18) and are not placed within a foster care home, problems arise when these kids need to find stable employment and housing. 

"The number of children in Ohio's foster care system has increased by a quarter since 2012," Chief David Marcelli of the Ashland Police Division said. "If these rates of foster care placement continue, there will soon not be enough spots for youth placements, and an estimated additional $175 million will be needed in three years for placement costs. As a result of overcrowding in Ohio's foster care system, over 100,000 of the state's grandparents are now raising their grandchildren, with many more unknown family placements throughout the state. 

The State of Ohio has created a Kinship Permanency Incentive Program to address the 62% increase in children placed with families that rarely receive the same financial benefits as foster parents. The program provides families with an initial payment of $525 per child, followed by payments of $300 per child every six months for a total of seven payments. The maximum payment is $2,625 within a 48-month time period. The amount is often not adequete, according to officials. It costs an estimated $12,000 annually to raise a child in the midwest. 

Other programs to help the foster care industy in Ohio include:

· Ohio’s START (Sobriety, Treatment, and Reducing Trauma) program gives children services agencies resources to partner closely with behavioral health providers and juvenile courts to form teams that will provide necessary supports to addicted parents and their children.

· Bridges, which is available to youth age 18-20 who have aged out of foster care. This program provides participants with a range of services to help them become successful, self-sufficient adults.

· Ohio’s Education Training Voucher program provides up to $5,000 a year in federal funding for qualified school—related expenses for young people who aged out of foster care or who were adopted after age 16.

· A range of programs in Ohio provide family members, who have taken on the role of kinship caregivers with more support, such as peer to peer support groups, information about benefits, and healthcare, and classes for people raising children with disabilities.

· Nonparental natural mentoring, comprised of relatives, friends of the family, caseworkers, former foster parents or staff at their former placements, therapists and teachers has been found to lower involved youth’s stress levels, increased their life satisfaction and likelihood of graduating high school or obtaining a GED. It also reduces the likeliness of homelessness and being arrested as an adult.

"Law enforcement leaders know the opioid epidemic has brought dire threats to current and future children's well-being and therefore to Ohio's public safety." Sheriff Risner said. "We can mitigate the impact of the epidemic by providing support to foster care youth."

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