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How drug use in Manitowoc County has impacted the need for foster parents

Posted at 4:58 PM, Feb 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-11 18:19:57-05

MANITOWOC, Wis. (NBC 26) -- The number of children in need of foster care in Mantiowoc County has more than doubled in the last five years, according to Manitowoc County Human Services.

Leaders in the human services department said the use of drugs in the county is one of the factors.

"Five or six years ago, maybe even longer, the increase in drugs in our community really started to rise. We started to see a big problem with opioids, heroin, and now methamphetamine," said Jenna Foster, a social worker with the county.

She said she often goes to homes during drug raids to try to help limit trauma children might go through in these situations and assess whether the home is a safe place for them. If it's not safe, they will try to see if there is a relative to care for that child. If there's not, they will find alternative arrangements like a foster care family until the mother or father of the child is able to safety care for them again.

Karen Zahn said the number of children in need of out of home care shows the need for more foster parents. She said the number of children coming into care has increased while the number of foster care families has not seen much of a change. Some people might have became foster parents, while others stopped. So, they're encouraging people to become foster parents.

Christma Rusch is a current foster mother.

"I was in foster care, and then I became part of the system, and then I started a recovery journey for myself back in 2005, and it was always something in my heart that said I want to be able to give back in a sense of helping other families," said Rusch.

Rusch also started an organization in Manitowoc called the Lighthouse Recovery Community Center in hopes of helping people on struggling with substance abuse. She said in the last 16 months, they worked with 11 families who's children have been placed in foster care. Six of them have been completely reunified with family. Three of them are now currently working at the Lighthouse Recovery Community Center, using their own journey to help others.

Leaders with the Manitowoc County Human Services department said their hope whenever a child is removed from a home is that the parents will be able to be reunited with their child once they can offer them a safer home.

"When you see a kiddo go back home to their family, that is an amazing, thing, too, because then you know something good happened there," said Lori Foth, a foster mom in Manitowoc County.

For more information the Lighthouse Recovery Community Center, click here.

For more information on how to become a foster parent, click here.