Opioids causing a crisis in the foster care system

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Walking into Bethany Christian Services I'm introduced to Devetta Clayton.

The bubbly Grand Rapids native is playing with her biological grand-daughter, and her now legal daughter, Nia.

The adorable Nia came under Devetta's parental care when Devetta's biological daughter and Nia's biological mother fell into a rut, struggling with drug addiction.

Devetta shares, "So it was really up to me. Family members tried to step in, but couldn't. So I stepped up, and that's how I started the foster care process."

Devetta recalls when she first started caring for actually three of her daughter's children, "It wasn't easy," and sadly, it also isn't unique.

Cheri Williams, Vice President of Regional Operations at Bethany Christian Services, has been working in the child welfare system for 21 years.

Williams tells us, " We are currently in a state of crisis in the foster care system across America."

The number one reason for this crisis?

Opioids.

"Addiction is a big challenge in our community," says Williams.

Largely due to the rise in opioid addiction, there are over 400,000 children in foster care in the U.S. today, and over 800 right here in Kent County.

As of 2017 one out of every three of those children came into the system because their guardian has a substance abuse problem.

Williams expands on these facts, "So more and more children are just facing abuse and neglect in homes where substance abuse is prevalent, and therefore they're having to be placed into the foster care system."

However what happens when a kid can't find a foster home?
Williams tells us, "When we don't have enough foster homes however, kids tend to go into group care, or more institutional settings. Bethany just strongly believes that kids belong in families."

That's where you come in West Michigan.

"We need people who can open their homes temporarily to these children," says Williams.
"Provide a loving, safe space for them."

Now Cheri is well aware that the idea of becoming a foster parent is daunting to say the least.
So to those who say they're interested, but nervous, "I'll say, 'Welcome to the club,'" laughs Williams.

"Really every foster parent who starts this journey is not quite sure."

There are resources to learn more about the process, and if you're not able to take a child into your home everyone has something to offer.

"Whether that's coming around other foster parents by helping prepare meals, helping provide child care, or being a mentor to a child who is in foster care, there are so many opportunities for everyone to get involved," explains Williams.

If you feel called click here to learn more about those opportunities on the Bethany Christian Services website. 

As Devetta explained to us at the beginning of this story, being a foster parent isn't easy, but since when has parenting ever been?

"Sometimes I ask myself `What have I gotten myself into?'," chuckles Devetta.

"But then I look and say, 'It's all worth it, if I had to do it again I would.'"

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1 Comment

  • Kevin Rahe

    And compounding the problem are progressive extremists who not only permit agencies serving children to place them in the unnatural situation of being cared for by a same-gender couple – which is a far more unnatural place for a child to find himself or herself than being raised by even a single parent, but prevent agencies that REFUSE to do that from serving children in need of foster care at all. Adoption and foster care are about finding parents and guardians for a child, not the other way around.

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