BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) — Thousands of children in our state are suffering in the wake of the opioid crisis.
Close to 7,000 children in the mountain state are currently in foster care according to Angie Thomas, Executive Director at Pressley Ridge, a child welfare center.
“About 85% of those kids are affected in some way, touched some way by the opioid epidemic, substance abuse epidemic that is just ravaging through our communities right now,” said Thomas.
Raleigh County prosecuting attorney, Kristen Keller, said she saw the number of kids in foster care drastically increase over the years. She also said the opioid epidemic brought with it an increase in the amount of abuse and neglect cases.
“It is not only when babies are born addicted, but it is when parents — because of their addiction — cannot function adequately,” said Keller.
“One of the big impacts and of course this is in a lot of reports, is the need for foster parents,” Thomas said. “Its really difficult, I think one of the things we need to put a lot of focus on is trying to recruit and retain good quality foster families, it is very hard work.”
Thomas said kids coming from environments of opioid use, or situations of abuse and neglect, are entering foster care with trauma and specific needs. She said a child’s brain gets rewired when they are neglected for a period of time.
Pressley Ridge trains foster parents to handle kids with trauma and a history with opioids. Thomas said not only is there a greater need for foster parents, but foster parents need more support.
“We have to make sure that we are supporting them, training them well, advocating not only for our kids who are suffering in the wake of this epidemic, but we have to support our foster parents,” said Thomas.
Thomas said foster care is only part of the solution, but they can address the opioid crisis by partnering with organizations within the community, like churches.