National News

Opioid epidemic strangles Baltimore, pours more children in foster care

Posted June 8

— Think back to when you were six years old. You probably knew how to brush your teeth, and make your bed, fundamentals that set you up the rest of your life.

Children who have parents addicted to drugs, don't have that luxury.

Baltimore City Department of Social Services says more young children are coming into foster care because of the opioid epidemic.

"Every time you see a person who's struggling with addiction, learn that a person has overdosed, know there's a family member, a neighbor, a friend, somebody you passed on the street and you can see that person is struggling, you best believe there is a child in the mix," Director of BCDSS Molly Tierney said.

In 2014 the average number of kids put in foster homes was 87. From January to April of 2017, the average was 112. That's up 30%.

Another trend BCDSS saw was how much younger the children were. The average age used to be 8-years-old, now it's four-years-old.

A time where stability is critical.

"Children were kept in temporary settings and that just has enormous implications as they develop their sense of self as they develop a sense of belonging, those are critical foundations to our ability to grow up and be successful adults," Tierney said.

With heroin's grip strangling Baltimore, more children are ripped away from drug addicted parents and kind strangers are standing in as mom or dad.

"It touched my heart to know that when they come in they don't know how to brush their teeth properly or they don't know how to make their bed and then before they leave to go home they can do these things, and they're returning back home being able to help mom," Foster Mom Shirley Bailey said.

Bailey has four children of her own, works full time and makes room in her day to love and teach the children she surrounds herself with.

She grew up adoring children, having four siblings herself. She started babysitting at 11 and as she became an adult she wanted to do more.

A radio advertisement caught her attention, and she knew she was meant to be a foster mom.

She's fostered 15 children since October of 2016. "It's amazing, it steals my heart when they leave but I like what I'm doing," Bailey said.

Tierney says they need more people like Bailey, as BCDSS struggles to help reunite families.

"We as a city can't look away from this, like everyone needs to be in the game to battle opioid addiction," Tierney said.

Everyone modeling themselves after Bailey, who gives the child a chance to rise above the struggles that pulled their parents under.

BCDSS gives each family personalized help to create a stable home and bring the child back into their life. That includes anything from job training, help with housing or rehab.

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