Fueled by the heroin crisis, there are now more kids in Hamilton County foster care than in the past two decades.
Case workers at the county's Job and Family Services are struggling to keep up, investigating 650-700 calls a month from 241-KIDS, Hamilton County's hotline to report suspected cases of child abuse and neglect. That's up from 400-500 a month.
"It's heartbreaking," says JFS spokesman Brian Gregg. "These are sort of the silent victims of the opioid epidemic."
Making placement more difficult is the inability to keep kids with extended family, according to JFS Director Moira Weir. "It's kind of far reaching. It's now touching not only the parents, but perhaps siblings, grandparents who are also using."
Forty-two percent of children are placed out of county. Gregg says, "This takes them out of their neighborhood, away from their friends and schools… and it makes it more difficult for them."
By the numbers:
- JFS receives about 65,000 calls to the hotline every year and investigates more than 5,000 reports of abuse and neglect.
- There were more than 2,900 children in custody in 2016. That is 900 more than in 2010.
- While custody figures include anyone in agency custody over a period of time, JFS had 1,163 NEW children enter custody last year. Between 2010 and 2014, the average was 786 new children annually.
- In the last three months of 2016, JFS screened a little more than 2,000 reports of abuse and neglect. This is the highest for any three-month period in at least a decade.