The project’s model, 30 Days to Family, originated in Missouri and has been replicated elsewhere, Meermans said. It targets child who are just entering or re-entering foster care, she said.
“The projects identifies children we couldn’t find kin for and are now in foster care,” Meermans said.
MORE: Springfield man cycles 3,300 miles across America to promote recovery
The Clark County division is expected to be trained for the program later this month, she said. The dedicated staff member will have a small number of cases but will dig deep into a child’s extended family to identify someone who might be able to care for them — either within or outside of the community — to remove the child from foster care, Meermans said.
“It’s a really high level of review,” she said. “There’s a lot more detail about it. We’re really excited to be a part of this.”
About 1,000 more children are currently in foster care statewide compared to 2016, according to an analysis by the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. On July 1, 2013, 12,654 children were in agency custody statewide. That number surpassed 15,000 in September of 2017, 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.
“It’s a statewide need,” Meermans said.
OPIOID WAR: Progress made against drug overdoses in Clark County but war not over
If the drug 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.
New Carlisle resident Janet Woosley, 46, currently has custody of her 14-month-old granddaughter and is also caring for newborn granddaughter. Both children tested positive for drugs at birth, Woosley said.
“They come with some challenges,” she said. “Each day is a very challenging experience at times.”
Without kinship care in place, Child Protective Services was going to place both of the children with foster parents, she said. Woosley and her husband — who operate a restaurant in Hilton Head, N.C. — have 10 children, she said. At 46, Woosley wasn’t expecting to take care of her young grandchildren.
“At least the kids are safe, that’s what’s most important,” Woosley said. “In this situation, it was so much better for them to be in the care of family.”
For some families, the cycle can last for years as parents make strides toward reunification with children and then have a setback, Woosley said. She wants lawmakers to take a look at the laws currently in place, she said, but understands it can be difficult.
“(Parents) will make one step toward reunification and then the amount of time they have to re-unify with their child just gets expanded,” Woosley said. “At some point, we have to say, ‘This is what’s best for the kids.’ It’s a fine line.”
SPRINGFIELD’S OPIOID WAR
Clark County leaders: Drug ‘emergency’ first step, more action needed
Clark County Jail inmates to learn about life after addiction
DeWine: ‘Never seen anything like’ drug crisis hitting Ohio
Churches unite to open recovery house in Springfield for addicts
Springfield hospital grant will increase screenings to battle opioids
‘Perfect’ Springfield couple battles addictions, finds recovery
Springfield native living clean, successful after prison, addiction
Addicts, family members share stories at Springfield recovery banquet
More prevention needed to curb opioid epidemic in Springfield
New program seeks to reach Clark County overdose patients, save lives
Safe houses for Springfield overdose patients might save lives
Drug epidemic wreaking havoc on Clark County businesses, economy
Drug crisis traumatizing children in Clark County, state
Money used to fight Clark County drug crisis at risk
More than 100 Clark County law enforcement officers to get Narcan kits
Springfield examines officer, medic safety after Ohio police overdose
Demand for, debate over Narcan soars in Springfield
20 more overdoses in Clark County during 25-hour stretch
Clark County sees another big spike of at least 40 overdoses in 5 days
Clark County leaders pledge to fight addiction stigma, OD crisis
Clark County to charge addicts who OD and don’t seek treatment
Overdose epidemic spreads, strains Springfield first responders
Clark County drug overdoses double in 24-hour spike
BY THE NUMBERS
15,000: Children in foster care in Ohio as of September 2017.
7,200: Foster families needed to fill the demand.
118: Children in kinship care in Clark County as of November 2017.
94: Children in foster care in Clark County as of November 2017.
ABOUT THIS SERIES
The Springfield News-Sun has written extensively about opioid and drug problems in Clark County in the past five years, including stories about multiple overdoses in one weekend and efforts to expand treatment options. The News-Sun will continue to take a deep dive into the community’s drug epidemic and what local leaders are doing to solve the problem.