MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The youngest victims of the opioid crisis are children - with more of them are ending up in state custody.
New data shows just how dire the situation has become for Tennessee children.
If all of the kids trapped in Tennessee’s foster care system gathered in one place they’d fill 80 percent of the seats at Auto Zone Park, and would be larger than the average home crowd of all but two teams in the Pacific Coast League this season.
Figures from the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services show there’s been a 15 percent increase since 2016 in the number of kids entering state custody, where parental substance abuse was identified as a factor.
That substance abuse can include all kinds of drugs, but often it’s opioids.
Stephanie Pugh oversees the foster care programs for Youth Villages in Memphis and West Tennessee.
It’s one of several agencies that helps the state find foster care homes for kids in its custody -- preferably with other family members.
“We feel like families are best raised, children are best raised by their families,” Pugh said.
She also says many kids have physical and potentially long-term emotional problems that need to be addressed.
“You see things like depression, anxiety. They may even also have some substance abuse usage, self-harming behavior.”
But she says Youth Villages works with foster care parents, children and their biological families, to make things as smooth as possible.
She encourages anyone willing to provide a good home for a child in need to consider it because as the number of children in state custody grows, so will the need.