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Story of a Couple Who Fosters 13 Children Left By Addicted Parents

Stafford family and foster children

Stafford family and foster children. Faces blurred of the foster children. Image by CNN

The Children Of Drug Addicts

Perhaps non one suffers more from the effects of drug addiction than children of drug addicts.  We often see the drug overdose statistics but those never tell the whole story.  So often a child is present in the home and they are victims of the toll drug addiction takes on their parents.  Many times a parent is convicted of a crime and sent to prison or they live in the most unpleasant circumstances where much of their daily routine is centered on doing drugs or finding drugs.

According to the CDC, Between 2000 and 2013, the rate of babies born addicted to drugs increased five fold in the United States.  This is not just a child living under the roof of a drug addicted parent, but being born addicted to drugs because of a parent.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services foster care reporting system, 32% of children were removed from their homes due to drug abuse by a parent as of  2015.

Children are the silent victims of drug abuse and addiction.

A Story Of Hope

As reported by CNN, one couple, Cyndi and Jesse Swafford, are doing something about it.  Certified as Foster Parents ten years ago they were advised it could take two to three years before they would have a child to foster.  Today a child can be placed with them in a week.

“It blows my mind,” Cyndi says. “There are babies in the hospital waiting because of this heroin epidemic for a family that will be able to take care of them.”

In Ohio, where the Swaffords live, fifty percent of children taken into custody in 2015 had parents abusing or addicted to drugs when they were removed.  28% of children removed that year had parents using opioids, per the Public Children Services Association of Ohio. “Nearly a third of children in custody are there because of the epidemic, and that number doesn’t count many children who continue to be served in their homes or who are placed with kin,” the association noted.

The Swaffords have fostered 15 children over the last ten years, 13 had one or more parent who struggled with drug addiction.

“I’m confident that if we opened another bed in our home, it would be filled with another baby with an opiate issue,” Cyndi says, “It’s hard to hold a baby as they are withdrawing from heroin.”

Children of drug addicted parents often need special care and counseling, often stay in foster care longer because it can take months or years for their parents to get clean.  Many never do.

The Swaffords see themselves as in in-between step, where they help the children feel the love of a family and give them support while their parents try to overcome their drug problem, and then they hope to reunite the child with their birth parents.

“I hate to say it this way, but we clean up a little bit of the mess, so we need more people to help clean up the messes with us, but it’s just normal for us,” Jesse says. “People think we’re crazy and they don’t understand why we do it, or how we do it.”

There Is More To Do

We need more people like the Swaffords who help the children of drug addicted parents, and we need easier access to drug abuse and addiction treatment.  We need better health care coverage, not less.  An addict wanting to get help is already struggling in life, for them to have to to face cuts in Medicare or Medicaid and try to figure out their health care coverage can be daunting. We need better coverage and less red tape.

Children of addicts need our support, addicted parents need treatment options and viable solutions.