The number of children in foster care is often talked about, but the cost of keeping them there is less discussed. As the number of parents addicted to opiates continues to rise, so does the number of children and youth entering foster care. The finances of foster care in the opioid age are a concern across the nation.
Ohio, in particular, is having a crisis. The Times Gazette reports that, according to Highland County Job and Family Services Director Katie Adams, there were 101 children in foster care at an annual cost of $1.9 million for her county alone.
Adams attributed the high cost to the increased number of teenagers, sibling groups and children with behavioral challenges coming into care due to one or both parents’ drug addiction, as well as difficulty in placing children locally.
Highland County is experiencing the foster parent shortages so prevalent in the United States; at the time of the article (August 2017), there were only 15 foster parents to serve the county’s 101 foster children and youth. This necessitated that children be placed in neighboring counties, increasing the cost of foster care per child.
The Times Gazette reports that Highland County Commissioner Shane Wilkin calculated that, “at an average rate of $50 to $60 per day for each child, a drug abuser with three or four children can cost the county $200 a day, indefinitely.” He estimates that foster children and youth could cost Highland County approximately $2 million annually unless something changes soon.
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine is taking action, encouraging state residents to become foster parents and expediting background checks for applicants, but It remains to be seen whether these tactics will be effective.
The finances of foster care in the opioid age may be grim, but there are campaigns to destigmatize addiction and recruit foster parents underway in Ohio and throughout the United States. These will hopefully not only lead to less money spent on the foster care system but also, and most importantly, better outcomes for children and families.