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Reporter Chronicles Strain of Opioid Crisis on Sarasota, Manatee Foster Care

Foster parents Elizabeth and Kate Dumbaugh stand on either side of their friend Katherine Mullins, whose son Aiden was recently in the Dumbaughs' care while she recovered from her heroin addiction.

The opioid crisis has claimed victims—and lives—across Florida, from Miamito Manatee County. But reporter Stephanie Colombini with WUSF in Tampa tracked another way the deadly addictive painkillers are changing the lives of Floridians: she found a "skyrocketing" number of children being removed from their homes and placed in foster care in Sarasota and Manatee Counties is linked with the opioid epidemic.

Colombinijoins Gulf Coast Live to share her stories (part 1|part 2) that link the explosion of opiate abuse with a "120 percent increase over the last three years" of foster kids brought into the child welfare system, according to the Sarasota YMCA's Safe Children's Coalition

Opiate abuse often tops the list for reasons why the children are being removed from their home: in an area that previously saw "one or two" overdose-related deaths, the Coalition's vice president, Brena Slater, notes they've seen 23 overdose deaths in 2017.

As foster care agencies struggle to find homes and care for the influx of children, Colombini also shares stories of foster families who have taken on the challenge by opening their homes to ever more kids.

Matthew Smith is a reporter and producer of WGCU’s Gulf Coast Live.
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