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Opioid epidemic strains foster care systems in Palm Beach County

With more parents becoming addicted to drugs, foster care systems in Palm Beach County are being overwhelmed by children in need. (MGN)

The opioid epidemic is greatly impacting Florida’s most vulnerable.

With more parents becoming addicted to drugs, foster care systems in Palm Beach County are being overwhelmed by children in need.

Emilio Benitez, the president of ChildNet, helps manage the foster care system for the Department of Children and Families.

There’s been an increase of children in need of foster care, according to Benitez, and their parents' drug use is to blame.

“We’ve seen since January of this year, 45 percent of the children that are coming into care are from parents with substance abuse problems and the majority of those are parents who have been abusing opioids,” he said.

According to the DCF, 24 children in Palm Beach County entered out of home foster care due to a parent 's drug abuse during the month of June.

Benitez said the opioid epidemic is putting a strain on the foster care system, and it’s been difficult to watch.

“It’s definitely having an impact on the ability to provide services,” he said. “Two sibling groups came within the last two and half months where both parents overdosed and died."

Now, foster parents need to step up to the plate more than ever.

“We need more because a child, especially a child that has been removed from their family, needs a loving home,” Benitez said.

However, Benitez doesn’t see this problem going away anytime soon.

“I don’t think that we as a community have really even seen the tip of the iceberg yet."

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