Tonight (Aug. 30), there's a town hall meeting at The Dream Center at 922 24 St. East in Bradenton from 6 to 8 p.m. At issue is the desperate need for foster care families to take in the children who've lost parents to a heroin epidemic in Manatee County.
The county has outpaced other counties in the state for the number of heroin overdoses as new state laws on opioids has put those painkillers out of reach. And as of 2015, the latest numbers available to count the cost of this crisis, 585 children were placed in foster care. In 2013, that number was 164.
Most of the children who need foster care in the county are babies and toddlers, but there are others, from six through 18, who also need homes. The strain on the foster care system has forced children into shelters and group homes. Kristin Kandel with The Sarasota YMCA, Safe Children Coalition, the lead agency in finding community care for these children, said that is not the "optimal situation for them."
For those considering becoming a foster care parent, Kandel says there is a network of training and support for people willing to step up and take care of these children who have been through trauma.
"And some people are surprised that it takes 10 weeks to get through class. There's good reason for that. We don't want to put a child in their home and then just have it be like, 'Oh my goodness, I didn't know what I was getting into.' So, yeah, it's a process of becoming licensed and being trained," Kandel said.