PLATTSBURGH — The smallest victims of the heroin epidemic are paying the biggest price.
The need for foster care has skyrocketed over the past year or so, as children are taken from parents caught using or selling the drug.
And the cost to taxpayers is rising, as well.
"The last six months or so, we've never seen it this bad," said Kamie Keating, a caseworker supervisor for the Franklin County Department of Social Services in Malone.
'MAIN CULPRIT IS HEROIN'
In Clinton County, the number of children in foster care now is 140. That's double the figure from the same time in 2012.
In Franklin County, 42 were placed in foster care in 2013, up from 25 in 2012.
That number now is 86, with 12 more tracked as foster kids who are living with a relative.
And in the first four months of 2014 alone in Franklin County, 14 children were taken from their homes and are in foster care.
Essex County has not seen a spike in numbers, but there has been no drop, either, with 34 children in foster care there in recent years.
Officials from all three counties agree that heroin is a main culprit in the rising need for foster parents.
"The need is growing now, and it looks like it will continue to grow, and we are going to have to deal with it," said Clinton County Social Services Commissioner John Redden.
ESCALATING PRICE TAG
Redden said Clinton County is now up to spending about $3.8 million per year on foster care.
Of that figure, about $1.2 million comes from federal funding and around $1.4 million from the state.
The local taxpayer cost is about $1.2 million per year.
The county spent about $3.3 million in 2012 and around $3.7 million in 2011.
But Redden said the 2011 figures are misleading because the county had to place two children in a facility, which cost close to $1 million.