Opioid epidemic placing children in foster homes in Manatee, Sarasota counties

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The opioid epidemic in the Tampa Bay area is impacting hundreds of families. In Manatee and Sarasota counties, many parents are losing their rights to their own kids. Now, there are more foster kids than there are foster homes.

The opioid epidemic has made national headlines and has trickled its way down to Manatee County and now Sarasota.

It’s a reality innocent children are having to deal with.

“We’ve had a couple of children who both of their parents have overdosed and died. We have a couple of families like that, so these children are being left without a mom and a dad,” said Brena Slater of Safe Children Coalition.

Drug use and overdoses are traumatizing today’s youth.

“I can’t imagine as a child not being able to be with my parent again and my parent choosing a life of drugs or crime over safety and well-being and we see that every day,” said Slater.

About 80 kids a month are pulled from their homes. Then unfortunately, they’re often not wanted in another one.

“A lot of foster parents want younger children, so it’s the older teens that are a lot of times hard to place,” said Slater.

Pair that with no foster home to go to and no parents for direction, this epidemic creates a bigger problem.

“These children are our community’s children. They’re not just the state’s children. They’re the ones that are going to grow up in our area, they’re the ones that are going to be adults in our area,” said Slater.

While everyone says they want to fix the opioid problem, many foster organizations are saying what many don’t want to hear.

“We need people in our community who think they can be foster parents to step up. There’s a responsibility that all of us have if we want to build a better community, help our community be successful now and in the future,” said Suzie Bowie, executive director of Manatee Community Foundation.

If you are interested in becoming a foster parent or know someone who is, you can call the Safe Children Coalition at 941-721-7670.

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