Increase in substance abuse is affecting Bedford County's foster care system

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) Bedford County is seeing a rise in children entering foster care. Officials say it ties back to Virginia's opioid crisis, and more substance abuse related cases.

Monday night Bedford County’s Children Services Act coordinator and Director of Department of Social Services made the Board of Supervisors aware of the increase.

It's an epidemic with ripple effects. Those effects are resulting in families being separated. Since July 1st Bedford County has had 19 children enter the foster care system. All 19 of those cases involved some sort of substance abuse.

“A very unusual amount of children in a very short period of time,” said Paul Baldwin, CSA Coordinator for Bedford County.

The 19 children came from 14 different families. Of those 14 families, six dealt with meth or opioid related issues. Eight families had issues with marijuana or alcohol.

"That brings us up to about 74 kids in foster care. That's the highest we've had since I've been Director of Social Services for almost 7 years,” said Andy Crawford. “And that is going to be an issue come budget time.”

This budget issue is why the presentation took place, to serve as a “heads up” for future financial needs.

The board listened with little follow up questions about the substance abuse issue.

Leaders with DSS also touched on an increase in children with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that require private day education. The funding for this is mandated and can get quite pricey. If an increase in students with IEPs and foster care children continue to increase, officials are guessing they will be over budget by February or March.

While Monday night was about funding, teams are working to address the problem as a whole.

“Increasing awareness, but really just trying to do more things all along the way instead of just waiting for a big major problem to hit,” said Baldwin.