Increase in opioid addiction is causing a strain the foster care system

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Increase in opioid addiction is causing a strain the foster care system (WPEC)

A shortage in foster care parents in Palm Beach County has a foster care advocate asking people to step up and become foster parents.

The reason for the need is the increase in parents using opioids.

Diana Reese, advocate with Speak Up for Kids, said over 400 hundred children have ended up in foster care in the county since the beginning of the year, outpacing the number of foster homes available.

This is causing many of children to end up in group homes.

Natacha Joseph has opened up her heart and her home four different times to foster children.

Joseph is currently fostering a group of siblings.

“Two girls, age 10 and 11, and I have their 18-month-old brother as well,” she said.

Joseph said she is willing to keep them as long as they need it because she doesn’t want them bouncing to different foster homes or breaking up their family.

“It doesn’t help when children are placed in homes after homes after homes,” she said.

Her first foster child was born addicted to drugs, a 4-year-old boy who led a rocky life and had serious issues.

“He would throw things, break things, kick, bite, curse and try to run away,” Joseph said.

Reese said foster children like Joseph’s first placement are a growing problem.

“It’s drugs, it’s alcohol," she said. "It’s not just opioids, but opioids has certainly increased the number of children being removed. We call it sheltered.”

Reese said just in May of this year, 70 kids in Palm Beach County were removed from their homes. Twenty of the 70 were removed for a drug abused parent.

She said most DCF cases today involve some sort of drug related issue.

“Neglect or inadequate supervision, that’s a parent often leaving their children to go out and do their drugs or buy their drugs,” Reese said. “Parents are choosing drugs and alcohol instead of caring for their kids.”

Joseph is willing to continue opening her home to the kids who end up end the system and she hopes many more people will too.

“It’s challenging but it’s also rewarding,” she said.

In some cases, foster children get reunited with their families, which is the primary goal, but that doesn’t always happen.

Therefore, some end up getting permanently adopted or just aging out in the foster care system.