Opioid crisis causing another crisis in southwest Georgia

Opioid crisis causing another crisis in southwest Georgia. / Photo: Danielle Ledbetter

Right now in Georgia, there are roughly 15,000 kids in the foster care system, but not enough homes for those children.

That’s according to Dr. John DeGarmo.

For John DeGarmo, his road to becoming a foster parent was rough.

"It wasn't until the death of my first child who suffered from anencephaly that I recognized the miracle of birth."

Around this time he had an idea.

DeGarmo says, "My wife and I, we lost our first child, how can we have other children? That has led to over 60 children coming through my own home."

Right now in southwest Georgia, 700 kids are in foster care, but there are only 150 homes for those kids to go locally, according to foster care organization NECCO.

Jay Houston, the foster care parent recruiter with NECCO says, "When you have a child that comes into care they don't get to stay [in their neighborhood]. Not only are they losing their families temporarily, if they don't get to stay in their communities they're losing their schools and their churches and their friends, everything that's familiar to them."

According to a statistic from adoptioncouncil.org, in 2016, over 92,000 children nationwide were taken into care due to parental drug abuse. That was a seven percent increase from 2015.

"They're being placed into a foster care system that quite frankly can't handle it and there's really one reason for that and that's the opioid crisis that’s strangling the state," said DeGarmo.

DeGarmo thinks the solution to this crisis is getting more people to become foster parents.

Jay Houston, who is also a foster parent himself, agrees.

"Working at NECCO is more than just a job for me, it's ingrained in everything I do," said Houston. "Our goal here at NECCO is to educate people on what it means to be a foster parent and to train them on how to be one."

However, being a foster parent isn't for everyone.

There are some guidelines to becoming a foster parent. You must be at least 21 years old and pass background checks.

According to the state of Georgia's Division of Family and Children Services, "The desire and open heart to support children and families are among the most important criteria for becoming a Foster or Adoptive Resource Parents."

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