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State Seeks More Foster Families, Citing Drug Abuse in Parents

Mainers are being asked to volunteer to become foster families for dozens of children who have been placed in state custody.

Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew says that while existing foster homes and families are expected to fill the needs of about 600 children in the coming year, there is still a need for 66 new foster families. She says children are the first-line causalities in Maine’s ongoing opioid crisis when the state is forced to place them into state custody after their drug-addicted parents are incapable of caring for them.

“Clearly the heroin and opiate crisis is impacting more and more children each year,” Mayhew says. “Substance abuse not only destroys the human spirit, it destroys the fabric of our families. Here in Maine more than 60 percent of children coming into protective custody are there due to parental substance abuse as a risk factor. In addition, more than 1,000 babies are born drug affected each year.”

That’s why Mayhew says the state will need more than 60 new foster parents to step forward to provide care for children who come from families in crisis.

During an Orono press briefing at the offices of Adoptive and Foster Families of Maine, Mayhew and others encouraged any Mainers who could provide a stable, loving home for the kids to apply to become foster parents.

Jim Martin, director of the state Office of Child and Family Services, says diversity is valued in the state’s foster parent program.

“Families of all types are resources to children in the foster care system, including families who are married, divorced, disabled, living in an apartment and the list goes on and on,” Martin says. “The uniqueness of families is an asset to this system and it’s what needed in order to find appropriate matches for all of the children who need support.”

Mayhew said there are currently 1,943 Maine children in foster care, many of whom are in need of state intervention at an earlier point in their lives.

“Another disturbing trend is that the Office of Child and Family Services has seen the number of children under 5 years old in state custody nearly double over the last 10 years,” Mayhew says.

The commissioner encouraged those interested in becoming foster parents to attend any of the regularly scheduled informational meetings held at any Office of Child and Family Services district office.