More foster homes sought to care for children of drug-addicted parents

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INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - Our state and our country is dealing with a crisis.

Opioid addiction is skyrocketing and that is fueling crime rates and tearing apart families.

When parents can't safely care for their children, the state steps in. But then what?

We learned of a solution that is increasingly in short supply.

Little Baby J is the fifth child for whom Elizabeth Friedland has provided care in the last 14 months.

“I've had him for a month now, there's no telling how long I'll have him,” Friedland said.

Friedland is single, 34, works full-time and surprised many when she signed up to foster children.

“I thought she was crazy and did not think she knew all that was involved,” her mom told us.

Not only is Friedland learning to single-parent, she's also learning what happens to children like Baby J when a parent uses drugs.

“His family story is one that's very common, of drug use and cycle of addiction, and I think it's a testament to the power of addiction that even knowing their child isn't with them, they can't break the cycle of addiction.”

Like thousands of other Indiana newborns, Baby J was born drug-dependent.

“The need is great,” said James Wide, a spokesman for Indiana’s Division of Child Services.

Right now, nearly twice as many children are in the system as there are foster homes available. It's a crisis DCS is trying to manage, but the gap is widening.

“There are a number of reasons, but I think the biggest one is no secret: substance abuse is way up, especially opioids,” said Wide.

Wide said the greatest need in Indiana in the higher population areas, like Marion, Allen, Vanderburgh and Lake counties, but every community is impacted.

“These kids don't have anywhere to go,” said Friedland. She said once she learned of the need, it took her about 4 months to get qualified.

“You learn about what kinds of children you'll have, the issues the children are facing, become CPR certified.”

“You have to be over 21,” said Wide. “You can be single, you can be married, you can be cohabitating and no criminal past.”

Friedland said since she got licensed, her phone keeps ringing. Sometimes she has taken two children at a time.

“You don't want to say no when you get those calls because there is a shortage of foster parents. You don't know how long it will be until they find a placement for that child.”

An ideal placement for a child is a safe home with their siblings and in the same community where children can continue with their school.

Some people try fostering to explore adoption. Others, like empty nesters, are experienced parents and have the space and the time to give.

The state is actively asking for help. The number of Children in Need of Services (CHINS) exceeded the number of licensed foster homes for the last two years.

“We have a need, and again we know Hoosiers step up,” Wide said.

And when they do, a generation of Indiana's children like Baby J have a better shot of reaching their potential.

“The improvement in the child is amazing, to see the weight gain and mental abilities, he's a happy baby, otherwise perfectly normal child. I love them as hard as I can and every time a child leaves, I cry my eyes out and its awful, but you know you did a good thing and that's what you signed up for,” Friedland said.