WARREN, Ohio (WYTV) – Trumbull County Children Services has seen a 40 percent increase of children in their care since the opiate crisis first took hold of the Mahoning Valley in 2014.
The need for a safe place for kids in the foster care system is growing daily and more urgent with each child.
Over the past three years, the number of kids in foster care has exceeded the number of people willing to become foster parents.
Children Services Executive Director Tim Schaffner explained some of the traumas these children have dealt with stem from addiction — including domestic violence, and physical and psychological abuse.
“Every person lost in the depths of addiction has some moments of clarity and every time I say that, I hope to reach just one person in their moment of clarity and say, ‘Have someone take care of your child. Trusted family members, trusted people, or us. We’re there for you and we’ll help you deal with your addiction, too,'” Schaffner said.
“The most valuable thing you’re ever going to have are those children. You always have to make a decision that’s best for them,” said long-time foster parent Terry Paronish.
As part of National Foster Care Month, Trumbull County Children Services and foster parents like Paronish are pushing to get the word out about foster care.
“I think that there are so many things that foster people, foster parents, can do and in working with Children Services, it’s not a difficult process. Really, it takes love, and commitment, and a lot of time,” Paronish said.
She is a foster mom to five amazing kids — all with different backgrounds and situations.
As a single mom, Paronish started her journey as a Trumbull County foster parent not sure what the outcome would be but knowing she wanted to have an impact in a child’s life.
“You just have to love these kids like you love your own children. They’re all the same and I feel like once a child comes into my house, they’re my child and I have to advocate for them,” she said.
Since then, Paronish has adopted two little girls out of the foster system.
She still continues to give homes to children who desperately need a place to stay, teaching them valuable life lessons along the way.
“How to make your bed, how do you brush your teeth, why do you comb your hair, take a bath. The kind of stuff we just think is everyday things, some of these children don’t even have anybody to give them that attention.”
As a foster parent, Paronish learned most stories you hear from the children are true and they don’t always tell you the worst parts. She said it’s enough to make you want to close the door to the outside and never look back.
“The thing is, it’s not easy to send them back but it makes you feel good to know that when they were under your roof and in your care, they got everything they ever needed.”
With a heart full of love, compassion, and understanding, both Paronish and Schaffner said fostering is something that everyone can do, despite how heartbreaking and scary it might seem.
“To change the world, one child at a time is an opportunity that is really hard to pass up when you think about it,” Schaffner said.
Paronish said it causes lots of tears and smiles.
“You’ll cry when they come and tell you what happened to them and you’ll cry when they go. But the goal when they leave is that they’re in a better place.”
There are certain requirements to becoming a foster parent in Trumbull County, including classes you have to take.
For more information on how to become a foster parent, head on over to Trumbull County Children Services’ website.