Children, the innocent victims of the opioid epidemic in NW Ohio

Photo: Drug Enforcement Administration

TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Children are the most innocent victims of the heroin epidemic.

The number of children in foster care as a direct result of the opioid and heroin epidemic continues to grow.

This is a problem that is overloading children's services throughout all of Northwest Ohio.

Lucas County Children’s Services has twice the amount of children in foster care this year, than at this time last year. Also, Fulton County is seeing a 43 percent increase.

PJ Sallie talked about her two grandchildren she now has custody of.

“Heroin never touched their lips but yet it's absolutely cost them everything too,” she said. “They've lost their life and they didn't do anything to lose it.”

Keegan and Lyla are children from each of her daughters who have both battled heroin addiction.

“That's the most despicable thing of addition with heroin, the collateral for the kids,” Sallie said.

PJ’s daughter Ashley is Keegan's mother and she's been clean for 5 months.

“I love my son unconditionally but at that point you are not yourself when you're on drugs,” Ashley said.

PJ still has custody of the kids and gets several requests from children's services to foster more.

“We cannot find adoptive parents quick enough for these children to take them. The addiction is just so rampant,” PJ said.

“The use has to affect the parenting, it has to show a direct correlation to put the child at risk,”said Maurine Clymer, a supervisor for Fulton County Children’s Services.

“Usually it's a neglect issue, it's a supervision issue, it's the children aren't properly being taken care of while they're in the direct care of the parent whose under the influence of the drug,” Clymer said.

When that happens and the child has to be removed, family relatives like PJ Sallie are the first option.

If not, the children go into an already over-loaded foster care system, hoping their parents can get clean. If that doesn’t happen, they go up for adoption.