In West Virginia, the growing opioid crisis demands more foster parents than ever before. Responsible adults are needed to raise children who have been affected and are no longer able to live safely in their homes.
According to an article by NBC News, the foster care system contains more than 7,000 children in West Virginia alone, and more than 83% open child abuse and neglect cases in West Virginia involve drugs.The number of children far outweighs the 4,000 licensed foster homes in the state. Foster parents are the heroes of the opioid crisis. They are providing children with safe home environments, and breaking the cycle of abuse that is embedded in families struggling with opioids.
Louisa and Nikki Snuffer are among those heroes. They are the parents of eight children from the West Virginia foster system who devote their lives to being full-time caregivers for these children, many of whom were born with physical and mental disabilities.
“It didn’t take long for Louisa and Nikki to realize that the trauma the children had been through would take years to process and heal,” Hannah Rappleye and Brenda Breslauer wrote, in the article ‘Love, over everything’: As West Virginia struggles with foster care crisis, families step up.
Nikki Snuffer, 35, hugs her daughter Harlow, 6 in Charleston. Snuffer and her wife Louisa adopted Harlow and seven other children impacted by the opioid epidemic. With slightly less than 4,000 licensed foster families, state officials are desperate to recruit families like the Snuffers. Hannah Rappleye / NBC News
When mothers use opioids throughout pregnancy, children are born with an inherent dependency on the drug. Without a healthy opportunity to live a clean life or the positive influences to abstain from drug use, the cycle repeats itself.
“The crisis has strained the system significantly,” Rachel Kinder, a program director at a foster and adoptive families nonprofit center, said. “Five years ago, my agency was happy to talk to 400 families who were considering being foster parents. Now, we talk to about 2,000 a year, and it’s never enough.”
Kelly May is a permanency facilitator at the Children’s Home Society, who works to place children in safe homes. Her job allows her to give back to children who have struggled in ways that she herself endured, as she entered the foster care system at 15 years old.
“We really need people who are committed” to becoming foster or adoptive parents, May said. “We are raising the next generation.”