More Foster Homes Needed Amid Opioid Epidemic

Posted: 6:08 PM, May 24, 2018
Updated: 2018-05-24 23:34:42Z
More Foster Homes Needed Amid Opioid Epidemic

If there is one thing that unites people, it would be food. On a sunny Thursday afternoon, the conversation of macaroni and cheese mixed with hot dogs at the kitchen table lit the faces of Niki Woods' three children - a 20-year-old son and two young daughters.

They love cooking food, and a conversation with their mother as the scent of lunch permeate the air only added to the moment.

It is this type of relaxed household setting Niki always wished to provide to her beloved children, especially for the girls. 

At only 16-years-old, Presleigh Woods already knows what a neglected home is like. She was first introduced to Niki when she was 14 after being pulled out of a home infiltrated by abuse and drug use.

"We just wanted to help older children because it seems like older children get left out sometimes," said Niki.

As a foster parent, Niki fulfilled a bigger need by deciding to adopt Presleigh.

"We really liked her so much and she fit in with our family, and the kids liked her and I guess she liked us, so we ended up adopting her," added Niki. 

Niki's second girl is a foster child, and hopes to one day find her forever home. There are many success stories but more foster children are entering the system.

The growing opioid epidemic is not helping the greater need for more foster homes either.

The number of Tennessee children in the foster care system is under 8,000, an increase compared to 6,778 in 2015. However, there are only less than 4,000 homes available.

Several organization say there are many reasons that contribute to children being removed from their homes and into the system, from abuse to financial issues. Everyone agreed that the opioid crisis has also been a contributing factor.

"There have always been children exposed to drugs and alcohol and parents with addiction. It does seem the numbers are growing and that there are lot of children in Tennessee specifically who are being exposed to that," said Nikki Swann, Assistant Director at Youth Villages.

The Department of Children's Services said there is no hard data to indicate how much of opioid abuse has played a role in the foster system.

A state spokesperson said it would be tricky to track down specific numbers.

An American Academy of Pediatrics report stated that there were more than 270,000 children placed in foster in care in 2016. Nearly one in five were infants.

Parental substance abuse was a factor for more than one-third of the children, second to neglect. It added that 8.7 million children nationwide have a parent who suffers from a substance use disorder. 

Youth Villages is one of several organizations with a goal to rebuild families and unite parents with their children again.

The organization trains parents interested in foster care, and provide therapeutic treatments to the older children they largely serve. 

"We also really believe in children are best raised by their families so we want their children to be with their family," said Swann. "If every person did one thing for a foster youth, I mean how powerful would that be? That'd make a huge impact."

With May being National Foster Care Month, Swann and other organization stressed by helping out in a way like being a mentor or volunteering, it can help a child find a home.