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Delaware County official: "To be blunt, we're a drug-infected county"
By Lissa Harris
10/4/12 - 2:51 pm
10/4/12 - 2:51 pm
Rising drug abuse is putting a tremendous strain on Delaware County's foster care system, according to a county official.
Delaware County DSS Commissioner William Moon minced no words in describing the county's drug problems at last week's regular board of supervisors' meeting.
"To be blunt, we're a drug-infected county," he said. He said employees in the department's child protective unit have investigated many complaints involving drug use, mostly heroin, and that the number of children in foster care has been as high as 100, though it is currently about 85. He said that, in years past, most foster children were teenagers, but it is now common to take newborn babies from drug-addicted mothers.
"The symptoms of the illness are not abating," Moon said. "It's not going to change. I don't see it changing."
Moon brought up the drug issue during a discussion of a transfer of $633,000 to the county's foster care program from elsewhere in the social services budget -- a transfer made to cover unexpected shortfalls. Later on, citing cuts in federal subsidies for foster care, Moon told the supervisors:
"We can bitch about the money, but we need to face up to the fact that people need and deserve our support."
Statewide and nationwide, the number of children in foster care has gone down over the last decade. In 2011, according to statistics from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there were 24,962 children in foster care in New York State on the last day of the fiscal year -- down from 26,783 in 2010, and 37,067 in 2003.
Nationwide, the number of children in foster care went down between 2000 and 2010, from roughly 552,000 to 408,425.
The drop results primarily from a shift in the policies and practices of state and county child welfare agencies. Many have shortened stays in foster care, expedited adoptions and expanded preventive support for troubled families so more children avoid being removed from home in the first place.
Foster care rates may be dropping nationwide, but in Delaware County, the numbers tell a different story.
Between 2000 and 2010, according to statistics from the state Office of Children and Family Services, the number of children in foster care in the county has fluctuated over the last decade, and was greater in 2010 than it was in 2000.
Below: Data on foster care for five Catskills counties between 2000 and 2010. In Delaware and Greene counties, the number of children in foster care increased between 2000 and 2010. In Schoharie, Sullivan and Ulster, the number of children in foster care decreased. Source: Data from the New York State Office of Children and Family Services.
Correction: An earlier draft of this story stated that $633,000 was transferred to the Delaware County Department of Social Services; according to the Walton Reporter, it was an in-department transfer to the foster care program.
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