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Heroin Hitting Kids: How the epidemic is changing child welfare

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DAYTON, Ohio (WRGT) - The state calls them silent victims. More and more kids and being taken from drug-addicted families, and there's a record number of kids in Ohio state custody right now. Foster families are virtually impossible to find.

Many kids end up in the court system, unfortunately falling into the same cycle of addiction. A local family, the Swaffords, are trying to make sure that doesn't happen.

A band of brothers, separated only by their experiences.

"Kalib, is 11. Brandon is 9," Cyndi Swafford said.

In addition to having a biological son, 6-year-old Cole, Cyndi and her husband have fostered 14 kids in 10 years. They adopted their two oldest from drug-infested homes. When Kalib was removed at three, he showed the development of an infant.

"Very, very emotional and angry because that's often what he saw," Cyndi said.

Thousands of kids statewide struggle with wide-ranging issues, from emotional and mental stress. Ohio's children services says the face of child welfare has changed.

"Parents are overdosing and dying, and we have to come in and pick up the aftermath of that," Jewell Good with Montgomery County Children Services said.

Statewide nearly 7,000 kids kids were taken into custody from drug homes last year. Now, there's another problem.

"Not one county in Ohio has enough foster families to meet the need," Good said.

With an overwhelming caseload, some kids slip through the cracks, inevitably falling into the same cycle as other family members.

"Five years ago, frankly, I never saw a heroin case. Now 20 percent of my kids are on heroin," said Judge Anthony Capizzi with the Montgomery County Juvenile Court.

|| Watch Judge Capizzi's full interview here:

Capizzi sees more than 120 kids a year in juvenile drug court. Some on his docket are as young as 10. He tries to change their habits before they phase out of his courtroom, but many don't make it that far.

"I have too many kids, I'm going to their funerals now," he said. "You can only go so many times, and that really hurts you."

In an effort to address the foster care shortage, lack of sober families to take them, and rising juvenile drug abuse, Montgomery County recently launched Family Treatment Court.

"If you stay in treatment, we'll let the children stay living with you, as long as we can make sure everybody is safe," Capizzi said.

If the program works, it could mean fewer kids drifting through households like the Swafford's. Cyndi says the goal is to help support families so they have the chance to get their kids back. While it's an emotional process having a child leave their home, she says it's worth it.

Judge Capizzi wants to build a residential drug treatment facility for children in Montgomery County. Meanwhile, the state is desperately asking families to seriously think about taking in some of these children.

For more information on kids here in the Miami Valley looking for a forever home, you can visit the county website here.

|| WEB EXCLUSIVE: Local woman building recovery center for drug-addicted newborns




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