ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Rockingham County has seen a steady increase in kids entering the foster care system in recent years and county leaders say the opioid epidemic is, in large part, to blame.
In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, 129 new kids went into foster care in the county. Half of them went into the system because their parents were using drugs.
That’s more than double what it was ten years ago, in the 2006-2007 fiscal year, when 60 kids went into the system. At that time, less than a third of the cases involved parents using drugs.
As Program Manager for Rockingham County Social Services, Cathy Murray sees the impact the opioid epidemic has on foster kids everyday.
She remembers one child recounting an overdose he had witnessed.
“He said the person had toothpaste coming out of his mouth. That was his perception of this person foaming at the mouth,” Murray said. “And when a child witnesses that, that's something he'll never forget."
Murray says the county simply doesn't have the resources to serve all the kids in need of help. They have had to place kids in foster care in neighboring counties because there aren't enough foster parents.
She's working to recruit more foster parents and hire more social workers to take on cases.
The county has also started an opioid task force to educate the community on the problem and let people know about the resources available for treatment.
"If you have a prescription for opioids and you're not using it, then turn it in. There are drop boxes at pharmacies, at Sheriff's departments, at police departments," Murray said. "Get rid of the opioids you have in your house so that your kids don't get addicted."