Monica and her brother now live with their grandmother, Angela Cimino, in Nashua, ever since their mother passed away from a heroin overdose in 2013. Cimino had to stop working because of Monica’s medical condition.
by Fox 25 News. Watch Clip HERE
It’s a tragic trend that is straining resources at New Hampshire’s Division of Children, Youth and Families.
State funding is being stretched to care for the rising number of children whose parents are addicts and its placing an overwhelming strain on the social workers tasked with fixing these broken families.
“In March, we saw the largest number of protective reports in New Hampshire in the history of DCYF,” Director Lorraine Bartlett said.
The majority of the cases they see involve a parent who has a substance abuse disorder.
Last year they had 1,609 cases that specifically mentioned heroin. Through April of this year, they had 571.
“The state of New Hampshire has 84 child protection workers to do the protective investigations. Those 84 staff are responsible for managing 10,500 protective reports in 2015. You do the math,” said Bartlett.
“We do have children who have experienced either finding their parent overdosed or finding their parent deceased,” said Jennifer Ross, she oversees the child protection office in Manchester, NH.
Ross said the increased case load has been too much for many social workers.
“I have had about a fifty percent turnover in my office in the last year and a half,” Ross said.
As a result, their cases get pushed to the people that stay, which creates a seemingly never ending cycle of paperwork involving some of the state’s most vulnerable.
“It’s the most helpless feeling when you love someone that’s an addict,” Cimino said.
For her, addiction is generational. Her mother died of an overdose when she was 17 and her nephew passed away a few weeks ago also from an overdose. She had to break the news to his boys.
“When I told the boys, the cry this little boy let out was not even human, it was ungodly. It’s the most heart shattering sound. He turned 12 the next day. It was the day before his birthday,” Cimino said.
She now’s caring for four children that aren’t her own.
“It’s a lot of mouths to feed. It’s a lot of mouths to feed. You know it’s not easy.”
Bartlett said that there is current legislation in the works that could help add resources. She feels they need 20 to 25 additional assessment workers just to make it manageable.
FOX25 reached out to the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families and they said they just started tracking cases by specific reasons, like opioid abuse, and that data is not ready yet. DCF said they’re deeply concerned about the opioid crisis and are currently in the process of hiring additional substance abuse specialists.
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