Children Services attorney to tell caregivers about the effects on the children of addicts

By Ed Runyan


Child-welfare advocates have tried to explain to the public the increasing need for foster parents to provide homes for children in agency custody whose parents are addicted to opiates.

Tim Schaffner, Trumbull Children Services director said last year, 62 percent more relatives across Ohio were caring for children in 2016 than in 2010, and kids are staying in foster care 19 percent longer because of their more severe needs.

There also was a 33 percent increase in Trumbull County children being placed with relatives from 2014 to 2016 as the opiate crisis worsened.

A Children Services official who will speak at the annual Hope for Recovery From Addiction program Saturday says opiates cause a greater amount of child neglect than non-opiate substances of the past, such as alcohol.

“One of the things we know about opiates that is different from other chemical addictions is there is a lot of neglect simply because the parent or caregiver who has the addiction kind of shuts down,” said Susan Collins, a Children Services attorney since 1995.

“With the opiates, we don’t see as much abuse as we see neglect. I don’t think there is a correlation between physical abuse and opiate use. It’s more neglect,” she said.

This year’s Hope For Recovery From Addiction program runs from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Administration Building at Kent State University at Trumbull in Champion, 4314 Mahoning Ave. It is free.

Another speaker will be Judge Sandra Stabile Harwood of family court, who will talk about grandparent visitation. A focus this year is grandparents and others caring for a child affected by the opiate crisis.

Though Children Services divides its work into child abuse and child neglect, the Warren Police Department calls both of those cases child endangering, which are crimes.

The number of cases of child endangering the Warren Police Department handled rose 54 percent from 2016 to 2017 and more than doubled since 2013, The Vindicator has learned through a public-records request.

The department investigated 54 child-endangering cases last year compared with 35 in 2016, 30 in 2015, 33 in 2014 and 26 in 2013.

Collins said she wants to help grandparents caring for kids whose parents are opiate addicts by explaining issues common to such children.

Because caregivers with a drug addiction frequently neglect their children, Collins said younger children of addicts sometimes have not had as much nurturing as other children, which can hinder development of verbal skills.

Older children can sometimes become what she called “parentified,” meaning they have taken on a parental role for their younger siblings. She said when such a child enters a home with healthy caretakers, “it’s kind of hard for them to let someone else take care of them.”

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