Opioid crisis driving Michigan's foster care need for support, parents

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"Just imagine if someone came to your house and gave you five minutes to pack your things and then took you to a total stranger's home," said Audrey Williams-Burton.

It's what thousands of children are forced to do daily across the state.

"They are scared,” she said. "They don't know where their siblings are going to be."

But advocates for children in foster care raised awareness Tuesday, on Foster Care Awareness Day. The need for foster parents now is greater than ever.

"They think about foster care and they think that someone else is doing it," Burton said. "But we need more people to do it."

Advocates with the nonprofit Samaritas, which has seven offices in Michigan, say the number of children in foster care nationwide has grown after hitting a low in 2012. The opioid epidemic is a big part of the problem. 

"We have seen an increase in babies coming from the hospital and having withdrawals and an increase in, unfortunately, overdoses and parents who are deceased," Burton said.

Right now Michigan has more than 13,000 children in foster care due to abuse or neglect. The program director with Samaritas of Southeast Michigan, Audrey Williams-Burton, says the average age of a child in foster care is 7 to 11. 

"The moments I remember the most are when the children are reunited with their families and you see that smile on their face and they say, 'Miss Audrey, I'm going home,'" Burton said.

Samaritas advocates say helping foster children can be as simple as donations of things like clothing, car seats and even gifts for birthdays. It just takes someone to open up their home with love.

"You don't have to be a perfect parent," Burton said. "A child just needs love, to be comforted and to feel safe."

For more information: https://www.samaritas.org/