YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The need for foster families is in its highest demand ever. Experts say the lack of families is due to lack of information about fostering. Mahoning County Children Services is looking to change that through a series of informational meetings.
All of Ohio’s 88 counties are currently in a state of crisis. Children Services officials are worried if they can’t find more foster families, the kids are the ones who will feel the effects.
For the past several years, the number of kids in foster care has been climbing at a dramatic rate.
“We’re seeing close to 16,000 to 17,000 children in foster care in the state of Ohio and close to 8,000 licensed foster families,” said Jennifer Kollar, with Mahoning County Children Services.
This is causing big problems for local fostering programs. In Mahoning County, there are over 300 kids in the fostering and kinship programs — the highest number on record — with too few foster families.
“There are our most vulnerable and at-risk children that need — temporarily until mom and dad can get their lives back together so we can safely unify them back with their children,” Kollar said.
On top of the complex cases and financial issues, Kollar said the opioid crisis is the main factor for kids having to enter the program.
“The drug epidemic has not helped matters. There are a lot more families in crisis because of drugs. We’re seeing a lot more families who are experiencing relapses.”
This is leading to a lot of agencies, such as Mahoning County’s, to look at other areas for foster parents, which can strain and impact the growth of children.
“Children do better when they’re able to maintain their familiar connections, whether it’s a school system, friendships, other relatives,” Kollar said.
Kids in this situation may have to travel as far as Cleveland for a foster family.
Studies have revealed that by the year 2020, that growing number could exceed well over 20,000 children in need of a home.
“I am worried,” Kollar said. “All of our licensed network of homes that we at Mahoning County Children Services license are full.”
If you’re interested in fostering, you can find more information online:
– Mahoning County Children Services
– Trumbull County Children Services
– Columbiana County foster care
– Mercer County Children and Youth Services
Mahoning County Children Services is hosting multiple workshops for those interested in learning more. The first will be held on October 23 at St. Charles Church in Youngstown.