In just eight years, the number of foster children in Wisconsin has doubled, and the drug and opioid epidemic is to blame.
In 2010, Wisconsin had 4,000 foster children in the state. Now, there’s 8,000.
Representative Pat Snyder of Wausau says parents’ drug abuse is a major driving force behind those numbers.
“Roughly 80% of the 8,000+ kids in the foster care system in the State of Wisconsin, are in foster care because their parents were involved with some sort of illegal drug activity, and over the last few years that number has climbed drastically,” Representative Snyder said.
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One family in Wrightstown has fostered more than a dozen children since the 1970’s, and talked to Local 5 about why becoming a foster parent is so important.
“We basically teach them social skills and basic living skills,” Claudia Martin of Wrightstown said. “A lot of times they don’t know a lot of things as far as maybe doing dishes or cleaning up after themselves. And I think it’s real important that these children have those skills, so that when they get older, they’ll be able to live on their own.”
These children looking for homes are usually coming from challenging situations within their own family.
“I teach them things,” Steve Martin of Wrightstown said. “One young man never played baseball, and we taught him how to play, catch, and play with the baseball bat, and I take him in the woodshop, let him work in the woodshop.”
Claudia Martin says the opioid epidemic is a contributing factor to the rising number of children needing foster care.
“I would say probably the biggest reason why there’s been such a jump is because of the traumatic experiences that they have gone through, and a lot of times that’s because of drugs or neglect,” she said.
The Martins said that having a foster child is just like having your own child in the house, and whether they stay with you for a few months or a few years, you’re changing that child’s life forever.
“You know, you’re going to make a difference to the kids,” Steve said. “It doesn’t take a lot, because a lot of the kids don’t have anything. They come with a plastic bag with clothes in it, and you can take it from there.”
“My biggest point I’d like for people to understand is you can make a positive difference in that child’s life,” Claudia said. “You can be that one adult in their life that can help them overcome their traumatic experience.”