Changes in adoption and foster care: How the opioid epidemic is at fault

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MARTINSBURG, W.Va. (WDVM) — Illona Roman has witnessed many heartbreaking stories throughout the past 10 years while working in adoption and foster care.

“One in particular story I like to tell is of a single father who had just lost his wife to cancer about six months prior found out he was terminally ill. So he walked into our office and said can you help me find a family for my kids before I pass,” said Roman, giving an example of adoption; however, foster care is when kids are removed from their biological parents due to abuse or neglect. “And the goal then, initially, is to be reunified with their biological families.”

Throughout the years that Roman has been working in the adoption and foster care field, she has seen plenty of change.

“In the past, children used to be whisked away from their biological parents and they couldn’t have a say in who they were placed with, they never got to see them again, sometimes they didn’t even know the gender.”

It is through this openness that biological parents can see their child grow up and even pick out the right family that the child will go to.

“So we want dedication, compassion — just an understanding of where this child is coming from, and also for our foster care side, we really like parents who are involved with the case and are understanding of the bio parents,” said Holly Yates, a social worker at Bethany.

Yates walks potential parents and foster families through the process, providing resources and answering any questions.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the number of children in foster care decreased by 4,000 between 2017 and 2018; however, the number of children waiting to be adopted has increased. Roman attributes this increase to the opioid epidemic.

“And the babies are born drug addicted. And so therefore we need families who are willing to parent children who are drug addicted,” said Roman.

WATCH: EXTENDED INTERVIEW WITH ILLONA ROMAN

Due to the issue of drugs, adoption agencies like Bethany had to revamp their training and resources to better prepare parents for taking care of drug-exposed children.

“And how to care for them when they are drug exposed. A lot of times they cry because of the withdrawal, and how they need constant rocking, but not too hard so that we don’t have baby shaking syndrome,” said Yates. “So we give them a lot of training on how to deal with those and how to deal with the future developmental delays that might occur with it.”

Despite the challenges, Roman says they put their all into connecting children with their forever family.

“You know someone to come home to on Thanksgiving or Christmas — you know, someone to call for advice,” said Roman, “they don’t have anybody and that just really reduces their chances of success if they don’t have that connection.”

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