The ever-growing opioid crisis is not only creating an alarming number of addicts in life-threatening danger across the nation, but also an exploding foster child population. Morgan County is not exempt from this national trend.
Within one year, the number of foster children in Morgan County has nearly doubled. Conversely, the number of foster homes remains disproportionately low in Morgan County. With over 50 Morgan County children currently in the foster care system from Morgan County, there are only eight certified foster homes in Morgan County.
Velde Hardy, director of Morgan County Family Connection and Cassondra Jones, director of Morgan County Department of Family and Children Services, confirmed that the recent spike in the number of foster children is primarily due to the prevalent drug abuse of parents.
“Even though the number of cases of substantiated cases of child abuse and/or neglect has decreased over the past few year, the number of children taken into foster care has nearly doubled in under a year,” said Hardy, director of Morgan County Family Connection. “This is mainly due to the increase of parental drug use within our local families.”
“More children are being placed into foster homes because of their parent’s drug use in addition to other issues such as untreated mental health issues,” added Jones. “A growing number of children are affected by parent’s use of heroin, cocaine, opioids, and other illegal drugs. Incidents of other types of child abuse and neglect such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect have not increased significantly. Morgan County DFCS service area has not increased or impacted the number of children in need of foster care. Increased addiction and use of illegal drugs including heroin has unfortunately resulted in more children becoming victims of this difficult problem, and more children entering foster care for safety.”
Jones and Hardy stress the need for more community involvement to assist these transitioning children and to hopefully put families back together.
“Community involvement via a collaborative approach in which people from all walks of life share a vision of safety and success for every child, family, and individual who lives in their community can create a state of hope,” said Jones. “This can be realized by working together to identify needed resources and supports, and discussing how to remove barriers to services.”
Hardy is encouraging concerned community members to join her to strategize effective ways to help local children and families suffering from drug-abuse and other damaging circumstances.
“One of the ways the community can help is to become aware of this unfortunate trend,” said Hardy. “Morgan County Family Connection is bringing collaborative and community partners to the table to on April 23 at 11a.m. at the Morgan County DFCS office to discuss this unsettling trend and to brainstorm action steps to help address this issue. Everyone who wishes to be a part of generating a solution, offering support or are interested in learning more is invited to join us.”
For more information on becoming a Foster family or supporting local organizations aiding these children and families, contact Family Connection at (706) 343-5907, or contact the Morgan County Department of Children and Family Services at (706) 343-5800.