Couple Spends Decade Fostering 13 Children Left Behind by Drug-Addicted Parents

November 4, 2017
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When parents are deemed unfit to care for their children, any children in their care are removed from the home and placed into the foster care system. During this hopefully temporary stay, the parents are required to work to meet certain standards if they hoped to reunite with their child.
In the pass decades, the group of children found themselves in protective state custody included those whose parents died, were in jail, couldn’t handle the child’s behavioral issues, struggled with mental health issues of their own, and/or were caught in drug addiction. With the nation in the clutches of the opioid epidemic, today, the mix of kids innocently living in the system is mainly the result of parents’ drug abuse.

Despite the growing number of children needing safe homes, the demand for them are low. Children introduced into the system due to drug addiction have the reputation of being more difficult to manage.

Usually these children have been exposed to the drugs themselves and suffer extensive withdrawal periods as the drugs make their way out of their systems. Moreover, exposed children have a higher rate of cognitive/developmental delays and long-term medical problems, making them harder to care for, thus become the unseen and unwanted victims of the pervasive epidemic.
When a child is taken into protective custody but cannot be placed in a foster home setting, they are placed in group homes. Today there are 56,000 living in such settings, where while providing basic care, is really nothing more than the cinematic orphanages of old.

In a group or institutionalized setting, it is difficult for these children — who were with specialized needs — to get the care and services required to flourish beyond their current circumstance. While experts know that these children would do best in home settings, the hard truth is that fewer people are signing up to become foster parents, and even fewer are willing to take in drug-addiction cases.

Married in 2005, Dayton, Ohio couple Cyndi and Jesse Swafford applied to be foster parents in 2007. At the time, they were told it could be months if not years before getting a baby to care for.

With a 25% reduction in foster families available in the last year alone, there is no such wait any longer. Cyndi told CNN “I’m confident that if we opened another bed in our home it would be filled with another baby with an opiate issue”.
Over the last decade, the Swaffords have taken in foster 15 children, among which 13 were from to drug addiction, usually heroine.

Almost of the kids that the Swaffords have cared for move on. But some are not. Spring of 2008, brothers Kalib and Brandon were removed from their home; Kalib was just two years old. In October 2009, the Swaffords adopted both boys and have raised them along with their biological child (born 2010) and their rotating door of foster children ever since.
In 2010, Cyndi left her job as an emergency dispatcher to devote her attention to the children put in her care “We’re a temporary gap between their parents getting clean and sober, and then, if we can reunify them, we will,” humbly explains. Like many others, Kalib and Brandon’s story was not set for reunification. Then, their father, James Fuller finally got clean.
Fuller may have returned to the picture with the adoption finalized, but will not regain custody of the children. Still, Kalib wanted to set up a meeting, which was captured by CNN in a nearby park.

In an emotional reunion, Fuller apologizes for not being there and Kalib, mature for his age, accepted his apology and said that he understood. He is grateful to the Swaffords, his mom and dad, but hopes that his biological father can hold onto his sobriety so that they can continue to have a relationship.

Cyndi admits “It’s hard to hold a baby while they are withdrawing from heroin,” seeming to understand why so few would be interested. The couple’s friends are stunned by their dedication and don’t know how they manage to do it. Indeed, it was not easy, a baby can wail for months as the deadly drugs move out of their systems.

Patience, love, and careful attention is exactly what these children need, and unfortunately not what they are likely to receive in group settings, which may not be able to handle their extensive needs while tending to a number of other children. The Swaffords recognize the special and ever-growing need for foster homes that taking in drug addiction cases. Jesse comments on the lack of home placements available “We clean up a little bit of the mess, so we need more people to clean up the messes with us, but it’s just normal for us”.

President Trum said “Jesse and Cyndi Swafford of Dayton, Ohio have provided a loving, stable home to children affected by the opioid crisis… I am calling on every American to join the ranks of guardian angels like… the Swaffords, who help lift up people of our great nation,” declaring the opioid epidemic a national health emergency, invited the Swafford family to the White House where he saluted them on Oct. 26.

“I am overwhelmed by the attention,” Cyndi told the Dayton Daily News “but believe that the recognition from the President is the type of attention this crisis needs.” While she hopes that the opioid epidemic would come to an end, she knows there will always be another child in need of a provisional home.

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