PHILADELPHIA - For years, the foster care system has been strained, and that was before the opioid crisis created an avalanche of neglected children in our area.
That's because more and more children are being removed from home due to their parents' addiction.
"I felt like giving up so many times, even though these were my kids," said Carrie Taimanglo of the Port Richmond section of Philadelphia.
She got hooked on Oxycontin at age 19. Soon she was dealing painkillers to feed her habit... until the day she got busted.
"I was walking down the street, I guess someone told. They were like, 'girl with the pink pocketbook,' and there was nothing I could do," she said.
Hooked on pain meds and now facing time behind bars, the county took her three young children.
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"It was just horrible. Because of my choices, me and my husband's choices, my kids had to suffer," Taimanglo said.
Her son, who is now 13, remembers the heartache - including when mom and dad locked themselves in a bedroom to get high.
When asked about what he remembers about his mom's addiction, he said, "Having to keep going back and forth to different families and stuff."
Sadly, he's far from alone. Most kids taken by the state end up in foster care.
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Foster families are only allowed to have six children in the home, but records we requested from the state of Pennsylvania show the state is letting foster homes exceed that number.
From 2014 to 2016, capacity waivers went up nearly 50%. More foster kids mean more stress on those foster families.
"You are bringing children into your home who have been abused, been through trauma, already been neglected. We call them 'children from hard places,' and those children need lots of attention," said Angie Gillen of the Salvation Army.
Gillen runs the foster system for The Salvation Army's Children's Services. She says referrals for placement doubled in 2016. She attributes the increase to the opioid crisis.
"I think we are going to be in an exceptional situation. I think we already are, to be frank," she said.
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Two things are needed: more families to take in children, and more money.
Taimanglo has been sober for four years, and has regained custody of her son. The two daughters she lost now live with other family members, but she says their relationship is strong.
She and her son have a message for others impacted by opioids.
"You can't give up. You'll never get them back if you give up," she said.
"Stay strong. Your parents may be fighting for you," said her son.
In addition, experts say more newborns are coming into the world addicted to these drugs.
Experts say it's easier to find homes for them, but teens are much more difficult.
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