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Matthew Straeb

How Opioids Trap Kids In Foster Care


Did you know that the effects of the Opioid epidemic in the United States has doubled the number of children living in foster care in the last 3 years?  


Matthew Straeb does as the President of The Heart Gallery Of America and so does Washington State Rep. Paul Graves, R-Fall City . Both men are working hard to help turn the tide on the overwhelming rise of kids living in foster care currently, using technology and legislation as their vehicles.  


Having gone through the licensing process myself, I can tell you, first-hand, how challenging the process can be even under the best of circumstances, especially when trying to balance daily life with work and kids.  There are numerous impediments along the way, a ton of waiting, and an equal amount of politics and hurdles that delay foster children from being placed in good homes. And lest we not forget how this all begins -- drug trafficking at its finest!


Whether or not many of these kids are ever placed in safe and loving homes at the end of this process is a whole other question.  Some would say that the way this process carries out presently invites the less than honorable foster parent from stepping up and dissuades those parents who really want to add these children to their families for all the right reasons.


At the center of much of this issue is money and bureaucracy"Innocent children’s lives and futures remain in limbo because those whose hands they are in have the luxury of not being in the same position themselves, despite how much they claim to know of it." My opinion, folks.


Sorry, but like Matthew Straeb and State Rep. Paul Graves, I’ve had it with little being truly done on behalf of these kids. It’s the reason I’ve chosen to do this follow-up interview with Matthew Straeb. Take a minute to read it and see how you can help.  


What compelled you to become involved in the foster care epidemic?

These children have no one to advocate for them. The Heart Gallery and our Family Life Technologies recruitment program allow foster children to  find foster or adoptive families faster. Everyday these kids are “in care” outside a traditional home they are damaged emotionally.


Why do you believe this epidemic has expanded so rapidly?

90% of removals of children from their home are related to alcohol and drug abuse.  It’s really a drug and alcohol problem.


What do you believe are the main contributors that cause children to remain in the foster care system or remain longer in it than necessary?

The legal system is slow to react and process cases; bureaucracy; case managers are overloaded and inexperienced due to churn and low wages.


You've chosen to help in a variety of ways. Share those ways, including how they are helping.

We believe that "if we can accelerate the matching of children with adoptive parents, we can reduce their time living in foster care and the damage done by the system to these kids."  Traditional recruitment (brick and mortar events, photos in public places, word of mouth) are hardly enough given how fast this crisis is growing. Today, with the advent of modern digital technologies to micro target using social media and the like, coupled with sophisticated matching algorithms, we can accelerate the process.


What is required to implement your new software nationally?

We need the cooperation of child welfare agencies to embrace new processes and methods.  The technology exists and several implementations have yielded astounding results.


What will be the hurdles you need to jump to do so?

The biggest is moving families from interested to licensed foster or adoptive families. Online training programs and aggressive background checks need to be accommodated by the licensing agencies to avoid delays.  Also, the cumbersome processes need to be brought into the 21st century using technology to effectively do that.


How can we help?

Lobby your local child welfare agencies and state/federal government to adopt new methods and reduce the legal barriers for foster and adoptive families to be forever families.


Share anything else that may compel my readers to act?

It costs $36k per year to care for a foster child in a group home whereby its only $7200 per year in a foster home. Therefore, the cost savings is significant and provides additional motivation to increase recruitment activities by increasing the budget


As Easter just passed and Passover remains, I can’t help but compare Matthew Straeb’s own heart, passion and mission to that of the Prophet Elijah’s -- “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.’’  (Luke 1:16-17)


Don’t you think it’s about time we listen rather than risk the revisiting of the real Elijah once again?  Anyone who knows the story knows just how truly bad that would be. Why risk it when you can help change it and save the innocent in the process?


Many thanks to Matthew Straeb for making this interview possible


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