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Amid Opioid Crisis, Many Ohio Kids Leave Their Homes

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Amid Opioid Crisis, Many Ohio Kids Leave Their Homes

More than a quarter of the nearly 27,000 children who were removed from their homes last year in Ohio, many because of their parents’ opioid addiction, were placed in the care of relatives or other adults deemed “kinship” — coaches, teachers or family friends. From 2010 to 2018, the number of Ohio children placed in kinship homes increased by nearly 140 percent, with a nearly 50 percent surge from 2016 to 2018 alone, the new York Times reports. In Scioto County — a mix of faded industrial towns and horse farms on Ohio’s border with Kentucky that is regarded as ground zero in the state’s opioid epidemic — at least 69 people have fatally overdosed this year,  the highest toll in two decades.

The rise in kinship care is a consequence of an opioid epidemic that has reshaped how children are raised, how they are being taught in school and what happens when they are put in foster care. In Portsmouth, the county seat, at least a quarter of the 650 junior high and high school students have a close relative who uses drugs. At least 140 — more than 20 percent — do not live with their parents, including 41 who are considered homeless, said Beth Burke, a guidance counselor at Portsmouth High School. Family addiction has affected more than half the members of the school’s softball team, the coach said. Nationwide, the number of children living with a relative has risen steadily over the past decade, reaching 32 percent of those in foster care in 2017, according to the nonprofit Child Trends. As addiction has shattered families in Scioto County, the burden of raising children has increasingly fallen on the foster care system or relatives, though many relatives have been unable to pass drug tests, welfare officials and educators said.

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