Drug addiction creating bigger need for foster families

ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) -- Opioid abuse is now a public health emergency in our country.

Doug and Patty Huffman enjoy spending time with their three adopted daughters.

And in Bedford County, Virginia, opioid addiction is putting a huge strain on the foster care system, with many parents not able to care for their own children.

Doug and Patty Huffman of Roanoke have fostered 10 kids over the years.

When they got 12-year-old Jaedyn as a baby, it was only supposed to be for a month. But things changed.

"I picked her up and she nudged herself and gave me a little kiss on the cheek, and there went my philosophy of not getting attached straight out the door because I was hook, line and sinker right there," says Doug Huffman.

Fostering led to the adoption of Jaedyn, and later, biological sisters Passha and Nicole.

Jaedyn now has special needs, after suffering a neurological setback.

Before they were born, all three were subjected to their biological mothers' drug use.

"The prenatal care, or lack of prenatal care that they received has presented some challenges that we work through," says Patty Huffman.

Ten-year-old Passha and 9-year-old Nicole deal with issues like ADHD and anxiety.

As a baby, Passha also suffered from jaundice.

"When I was a baby, I had to sit in the sun," says Passha.

She still likes to sit the sun, and play the piano. Both girls also love to take walks together.

"On a whole, I think our girls are really fortunate that they don't have a lot of the severe hardships that some children who are exposed to those things have," says Patty.

In the Roanoke, Virginia area, parental drug use is a huge problem, particularly when it comes to opioids.

"I've worked in a couple of other states, and I've never seen addiction as thorough and as widespread as I've seen it here," says Ben Jones, the supervisor of foster care for Roanoke County Social Services.

According to the department of social services, three Virginians die every day from an opioid overdose, with a 40 percent spike from 2015 to 2016.

Jones says it can take a parent years to recover from addiction, and children don't have that much time to wait.

"Many of our children do not get to go home with their mom or dad from foster care, because of how long recovery can really take," says Jones.

Typically, social services allows about 15 months from the time a child is put in foster care, until a judge determines permanent placement.

For the Huffmans, opening their home to these girls has been a blessing.

"More than they needed us, we need them," Patty said. "We need them to complete us and to make us a family."