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Foster children population spikes in Indiana

MISHAWAKA, Ind. - Indiana had the largest increase nationwide in children being placed in foster care over the last five years.

Much of this is due to the heroin epidemic, according to Michiana experts.

Debra Atkins of Mishawaka has fostered four children.

“I don’t know what I expected, but I found it to be perhaps the most fulfilling role in my life,” Atkins sid.

Today, Atkin’s former foster children are still family to her.

“I got to be the bridge. I got to be the connection that helps them,” Atkins said.

However, Atkins is a rarity.

The number of foster parents in the system is staying stagnant, while the number of children is booming.

A study by the Casey Foundation shows Indiana saw a fifty percent hike in children being placed in foster care since 2012.

Mishawaka foster parent recruiter Anna Carter blames it on the growing drug problem.

“We’ve all heard about the heroin epidemic and all the things that are going on with that, and that leads also to the increase,” Carter said.

Carter and Atkins both work at SAFY in Mishawaka, where they help place kids in need with foster or adoptive parents.

“There is a greater need, I feel like, now than ever before,” Carter said.

Carter says the lack of interested parents comes from fear and trepidation.

Children who come from substance abusing homes have their own set of concerns.

“Some of those babies have been born with drugs in their system, and we have some of those currently in our homes,” Carter said.

Atkins agrees, but says it’s all about trust.

“They’ve had to ensure their own safety. So there’s a lot of guardedness in trusting that you’re going to do that,” Atkins said.

As the heroin problem grows Carter looks each day to find more people willing to take a chance on the drug epidemic’s youngest victims.

 

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