Opioid crisis continues to challenge Miami Valley children's services

Opioid crisis continues to challenge Miami Valley children's services (WKEF/WRGT)

DAYTON, Ohio (WKEF/WRGT) - As the Miami Valley continues to deal with the ongoing opioid epidemic, Fox 45 talked with Montgomery County Children's Services about the desperate need for foster families.

"Last year we averaged 655 kids, at any given time," spokesperson Kevin Lavoie told Fox 45's Shavon Anderson.

Of those hundreds of kids, 40 percent were a result of substance abuse issues.

"It's making kids stay in care longer, as people try to kick these bad habits," he said.

Recruitment for foster and adoptive families is tough. Monday night, the agency held their monthly interest meeting for potential candidates.

Over the past few years, Ohio has consistently been ranked last in the nation for funding. Between 2009 and 2016, the children in custody increased by 16 percent, while state funding was cut more than 20 percent.

"That is still the case in terms of funding per dollar," said Lavoie.

Montgomery County has recently been averaging 80-90 adoptions per year, but that success is a double-edged sword.

"Over a four-year period, we lost about a quarter of our foster families," Lavoie added. "A family adopts, a lot of times they get out of the foster care business."

According the the Public Children's Services Association of Ohio, another factor in the system is employee turnover. Recent data by the agency revealed one in seven workers quit due to high caseload, stress and low pay. Additionally, it costs $54,000 to replace a single worker, which drains limited funds. Kids then have to wait for new workers to get trained and re-assigned to their cases, in an already backlogged system.

"That could mean multiple placements, it could mean splitting up siblings groups," Lavoie said of kids, who have extended stays.

The ultimate goal is to get kids back with their families, and getting foster families to understand and support that mission. The county provides free training for foster/adoptive families. It's recommended that interested parties get certified in both foster and adoption, in case they are interested or asked to take legal guardianship. For more information, and a list of kids who are currently in the system, you can visit the Montgomery County Children's Services website.

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