CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio– The Cuyahoga County foster system has had its years of increases and decreases. But in the last five years it has become more complicated as the opioid crisis sends more and more kids into the foster system.
“We’ve seen children from infancy to teenager who have witnessed one or two, multiple parents overdose in front of them,” said Jacquline Fletcher, a social program administrator with Children and Family Services.
Currently, there are 2,295 children in foster care in Cuyahoga County. That number is up 43% from the end of 2013 when there were 1,608 kids in the foster system.
“It’s staggering, it’s staggering for staff and it’s staggering for our families,” said Fletcher.
Fletcher says the county expects the increased impacts from the opioid crisis to make the numbers continue to rise. She also says there are often multiple problems at play within a household, such as domestic violence, mental illness and substance abuse.
Fletcher says on average, 44 babies a month in Cuyahoga County are referred to foster care because they are born already exposed to drugs.
The baby that Linda Hric is fostering is one of those babies.
“This little one, you know, didn’t have a choice and was placed in the situation that she was but I’m very thankful that we are able to be there and nurture her,” Hric said.
Children and Family Services has been able to place more kids with family members than they have historically. They say that is good thing and a good step for the kids, but there are still more kids coming into the system and there are fewer people who are becoming foster parents.
“We lose roughly 50% of newly licensed foster parents within the first year; it’s tough,” said Fletcher.
Hric and her husband were just licensed in January, and the two-month-old they have right now is their first foster child.
“When you’re fostering you have to be very flexible; there’s a lot of roller coasters, up and down,” Hric said.
She says her family is already planning to foster future kids.
“If you do it for the love of children, and you have the heart for it and you’re called for it, then it’s the most beautiful thing,” she said.
There are currently only 245 licensed foster families in Cuyahoga County.
If you are interested in learning more about what it entails, you can visit Cuyahoga County Children and Family Services website or call (216) 881-5775.