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Family 411: Strain on foster care system
CINCINNATI (Sheila Gray) -- The nation's heroin epidemic created another crisis.
Foster care systems across the U.S. are overwhelmed. When parents are addicted, locked up or going into treatment, what happens to their children?
A simple game of Candyland on the living room floor some might take it for granted, but not Cheryl Chambers. Three of her four foster children came to her because of their mother's 20 year heroin addiction.
Cheryl said, "The children were not the priority. The drug was the priority."
Eight-year-old Daysia and 6-year-old twins, Keeland and Kya, were finally taken from their mother. Cheryl's also raising her granddaughter, Keliah. Tens of thousands of children are like Cheryl's, removed from homes where drug abuse is taking place. An agency which monitors adoption and foster care said substance abuse is involved in about 40 percent of the cases in which parental rights are terminated.
Judge Mehling said, "We are so swamped with the child abuse and neglect cases, which these cases all are."
Judge Chris Mehling's family court is just part of a system overwhelmed by addicted parents and their children. There aren't enough treatment facilities where he can send the parents and not enough foster homes to hold the children.
"I feel like a man standing on a beach looking at a tidal wave coming," said Judge Mehling.
Ron Bertsch places children with foster and adoptive families through a private, Catholic, children's home. He said, "80% of our kids have that in their background. We're always full. This year when a bed was opening up, we had a kid being placed the same day."
Judge Mehling said it's a system which needs more beds for foster care and addiction treatment; more mental health services not just for addicts but also for the abused children; and more patience because most addicts need several tries to beat the addiction.
But perhaps the biggest need is for people who are willing to help and love.
Cheryl said, "My favorite part of the day is when I pick them up and they give me a big hug, and I say, 'Tell me about your day.'"
Cheryl's children have come a long way in the two years she's been mom. She said they're not the only ones whose lives have changed.
CLICK HERE for links to the foster care agencies.
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