Opinion: Drug crisis creates growing need for Ga. foster parents

There isn’t a day that goes by that this nation’s escalating drug epidemic doesn’t impact a neighbor, family member or friend. Whether it be opioids, heroin, crack, alcohol or other illegal drugs, substance abuse is stealing the lives of adults and teenagers.

But when my husband Jeff and I recently added a new member to our family, we came face to face with the brutal reality that addiction is also having a tremendous impact on innocent children.

Three years ago, Jeff and I ventured into the world of foster parenting. Through Browns Bridge Church, we got connected to FaithBridge Foster Care where we became approved foster parents. Shortly thereafter, we spent a few short weeks as foster parents for a little boy. This was an experience that not only opened our hearts but the hearts of our son and two daughters.

But we decided we wanted a more lasting addition to our family. And God brought us that opportunity with Ava, a baby born a few weeks early at Gwinnett Medical Center to a homeless mother who tested positive for cocaine and alcohol. Ava’s mother immediately surrendered her to the Division of Family and Children Services. Ava went home with us within a week of her birth.

Since that August day in 2014, Ava has never left our family. Despite what many want-to-be-parents believe, we discovered there are hundreds of infants and young children in our state in need of loving homes.

The first year of Ava’s life indicated she was exposed to illegal drugs in the womb. Her birth mother had admitted to using cocaine, crack, marijuana and alcohol during the pregnancy in which she had no prenatal care. Ava did not sleep through the night until age two, she had a difficult time relaxing during the day and was hypertonic. Her left side was slow to develop, and she has had countless doctor’s appointments and therapies.

According to Georgia’s Division of Family and Children Services, there are 12,872 children in foster homes in our state and about 40 percent were removed from families due to substance abuse. But children are taken from their parents for a variety of reasons that also include neglect, abuse and abandonment.

There is so much more demand for families than supply of foster parents available to take infants, toddlers, small children and even teenagers. Fifty-nine percent of those placed in foster care must be moved to another county because there aren’t enough foster parents in their local community.

FaithBridge Foster Care is a Christian foster care agency that is working with churches to ensure there are enough loving foster homes for all children throughout metro Atlanta and other parts of the state. Its model surrounds foster families with the support they need to successfully care for the children who come into their homes who are truly the orphans of our time.

If just one family from every church in our state would step forth to foster a child, the shortage of foster families would disappear overnight.

Some children are eventually reunited with their parents after they are rehabilitated, serve jail time or get counseling and other help. In Ava’s case, that wasn’t meant to be. We adopted her in February, and she is now a permanent member of our family.

Being a foster parent has been an eye-opening experience to what is happening with this exploding drug crisis. It’s bad enough countless lives are being lost to drugs and alcohol. But it is truly unfair to the innocent children who are impacted – especially as many permanently lose their biological parents. Until those trapped in a dysfunctional lifestyle can surrender to God, we have an obligation as a society to give these orphans hope and show them there are those among us who will give them all the love they need for a healthy life.

Allison Moncrief, a stay-at-home mom, and her husband live in Suwanee and are active in the Fostering Together ministry at Browns Bridge Church.

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