More than 11,000 children in North Carolina are now in foster homes. The Children's Home Society of North Carolina says the number has been steadily rising since 2012, and is at its highest rate in the last 10 years.
Children are more likely to end up in foster care if they experience abuse or neglect in their homes, according to the Children's Home Society’s Matt Anderson. And case workers say the emergence of the opioid crisis also contributes to instability in the home.
“We've also seen the opioid epidemic really increasing over the last few years in North Carolina, so any time you have substance abuse and addiction on the rise, you can expect to see abuse and neglect on the rise as well,” Anderson said.
The number of children who age out of North Carolina's foster care is also on the rise, he said. About 600 children age out of the system without being adopted by a permanent family.
The Children's Home Society is trying to focus on highly-specific matches for older children, who often spend more time in foster care, according to the group’s Rebecca Starnes.
“That could be a family member, it could be someone that knew the child prior to being in foster care, or it could be someone that shares a particular interest,” Starnes said. “Maybe they like the same sport, or are artistic, or have something else that would match them and make them a really good placement for that youth.”
Starnes said there's also a lack of resources for prevention measures, like parental education and family preservation programs.