Foster parents are rescuing children

Amid the devastation wrought by the substance abuse epidemic that has swept across Appalachia, truly innocent victims — children — are adrift in a world where parents are being arrested, or dying, and other family members are often unable to take them in because addiction has poisoned the entire family.

Child welfare systems are overwhelmed. In Ohio, for example, there are more than 15,000 children in the foster care system, with only 7,200 foster families able to take them in. According to Deborrha Armstrong of Franklin County Children Services, there are nearly 3,000 more children in the welfare system now than there were seven years ago. In some of the counties hardest hit by substance abuse, 80 percent or more of those kids are in the system because of parental drug abuse. For one county in Ohio, Van Wert, that rate is 100 percent.

So the attorney general’s office has put out a distress call, asking willing and able families “to make that leap and open their home to a kid or kids who could use a stable, loving home.” Ohio’s Bureau of Criminal Investigation has even put in place steps to speed up the mandatory background check process, using a dedicated email address: FosterCheck@OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.

Those who have the financial ability and spiritual strength to take on such a challenging responsibility should consider it. Becoming a foster family is not right for everyone. But it could be a rewarding experience for some; and it could make a world of difference for a generation of children hovering on the edge of what they will become. Will they follow in their parents’ footsteps, or will the plague end with them?

Becoming part of a loving foster family might just sway the odds in their favor.

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