When heroin hits home: Ohio is last for funding child welfare

Ohio is last for funding child welfare (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The heroin crisis means more children than ever are being removed from their homes.

In Hamilton County, it's already topped 3,000 this year.

A local woman survived her mother's addiction only to take responsibility for her siblings. She refuses to give up on her dreams.

It was a call Megan Shank feared, but it became a scary reality.

Her mother, who was a heroin addict, overdosed in her car with Megan's son and her little brother in the back seat.

“She had Dominique and Mason,” said Megan Shank. “And I got the call that she had overdosed with them in the car.”

3-year old Mason was removed from their mother's custody. Megan is now raising her young brother with her own son and daughter.

More Ohio families than ever are dealing with situations like Megan's.

“It's really taking a toll, so you really need to provide support for the children, but also for the caregivers,” said Hamilton County Job and Family Services Director Moria Weir. “And the cost of really trying to treat families who have such trauma is costly.”

The Ohio legislature approved an extra $30 million this year to address the heroin crisis, but the Buckeye State remains dead-last in the nation for funding child welfare and would stay in last place even if funding is doubled.

“We need to have an examination of what that means,” said Weir.

Hamilton County Job and Family Services Director Moira Weir says some of the new funding will support people providing kinship care, although exactly how is still being ironed out by the state.

Meantime, her agency has a thousand more children in custody than it did just one year ago. Funding for the heroin crisis just isn't keeping up.

“My graduation or my baby shower, all of the bigger events in my life that'll never be what they were supposed to be because of it,” said Megan Shank.

Her mother's 12-year addiction was part of Megan's childhood. She is bound and determined to give her little ones a better life.

“They've seen more than I ever wanted them to see, and I don't want them to have that like I did,” said Megan Shank.

Megan herself wants more. She'd like to go to culinary school and start her own event planning business.

“I like to do events, like banquets, catering to decorating. I like the whole situation,” said Megan.

Her life experience has given her a unique set of skills, she says.

“The ability to just make it happen… whatever it is, I'll figure it out,” said Megan Shank.

For now, figuring things out one day at a time to make a better life for this young family is the name of the fight,

Megan was also helping to raise two teenage sisters, just as she was starting her own family.

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