Opioid epidemic is forcing more children into foster care system, local agencies say

Local News

The opioid epidemic in Western New York is now leaving many children without their parents. Agencies say it’s causing a foster care crisis.

“The kids that are coming into care are more traumatized than when I started 13 years ago,” said Betsy Farkas, program director at KidsPeace in Williamsville.

As the opioid epidemic continues to be a problem nationwide, it’s hurting the youngest part of the population — children.

“The need has gotten much worse over the last couple of years with opioid crisis, with the levels of domestic violence increasing,” said Farkas.

Betsy Farkas says now more children are being forced into foster care and as a foster parent herself, she says it’s heartbreaking.

“Their lives are just devastated,” said Farkas.

She says as a result of drug overdoses, agencies struggle to find homes for groups of children.

“I’ve had Erie County call me and say we have a sibling group of 7, do you have a placement?” said Farkas.

According to KidsPeace, 600 children were put in foster care in both Erie and Niagara Counties last year, but there’s only about 510 families to place them with.

That’s why KidsPeace is looking for more foster parents and held an open house Thursday.

“We try to train our foster parents in a variety of ways. The foundation of all of it is trauma- informed care,” said Farkas.

Farkas says it can be a difficult transition for children and those who choose to take them in.

“They become very ‘parentified’ and it’s very difficult for them to come into a foster family and all of a sudden be just a kid,” said Farkas.

But she says it’s critical to have more foster families to open their home and their hearts. 

“I see it time and time again that these kids, if you give them the time and the energy and you invest in them it does make a difference. It stops that cycle of abuse,” said Farkas.

Farkas says some foster parents are trained to deal with the physical and psychological effects children may have.

KidsPeace works closely with different counselors and agencies throughout the counties to better prepare any foster parent.

To find out more information on how to become a foster parent, click here.

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