Report: Ohio opioid epidemic strains child welfare agencies

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Report: Ohio opioid epidemic strains child welfare agencies

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Chris Stewart
Montgomery County Children Services caseworker Janine Elders visits children in custody currently receiving foster care by Patricia Boring. Elders, with Children Services 22 years, now works with foster parents but spent her first years on the job working directly with families in crisis. She said she was able to cope that long by not taking work home with her. CHRIS STEWART / STAFF

The growing number of Ohio children neglected because of parental drug use is straining county children services agencies, according to a new report.

Due in large part to the state’s opioid epidemic, a thousand more children are spending this holiday season in foster care compared to 2016, shows an analysis by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio (PCSAO).

On July 1, 2013, 12,654 children were in agency custody. The number reached 15,145 in July and in October surpassed 15,500, according to the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services.

“Many of these kids watched their parents overdose or die,” said Angela Sausser PCSAO executive director. “They are missing milestones with their families such as birthday parties and ringing in the New Year, and many are staying in care longer due to their parents’ relapsing.”

Parents of half of all children taken into custody in 2015 used drugs, the study found. Parental opioid use was a factor in 28 percent of children removed from homes in 2015 by children services agencies.

If the opioid epidemic continues at its current rate, the number of Ohio children in foster care could reach more than 20,000 by 2020 and increase costs dramatically, requiring an additional $175 million within three years for child placement costs, according to state and PCSAO calculations.

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