By Ed Pruneau
Missourian Managing Editor
As the ranks of Franklin County children moving into foster care continue to swell, Foundations for Franklin County and the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit are launching another appeal for funds to help shoulder the burden.
Many of the children placed in foster care have been taken from their parents because of drug-related activities, most involving dangerous chemicals and life-threatening situations connected to the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Some also are subjected to violent behavior by their parents and other adults participating in drug use, production and trafficking.
“The sheer number of kids being placed in foster care now is astounding,” said Detective Sgt. Jason Grellner, commander of the narcotics unit.
He said last year between 160 and 180 children were taken from dangerous situations by the Division of Family Services (DFS) and placed in foster care.
This year, that number is over 300, Grellner noted.
Those are in foster care in the 20th Judicial Circuit, which includes Franklin, Gasconade and Osage counties. The largest number of those, however, are in Franklin County.
“We continue to take kids out of homes where parents are manufacturing meth,” Grellner said. He said he hopes that number will drop with the development of a new cold and allergy medicine that contains a pseudoephedrine formula that can’t be used to make meth.
But there also are cases where the parents are involved with other dangerous drugs, like heroin, which is on the rise, he noted.
“We are actually out of foster parents at this time,” Grellner said, “so we’re having to place children with other family members who may not be prepared for the extra burden and responsibility.”
Foundations for Franklin County, established in 2009 as the charitable and rehabilitative arm of the drug task force, conducted a campaign in 2010 to raise money, clothing and other items to assist DFS and foster parents.
That first drive raised over $11,000 and massive amounts of clothes, toys and other items.
“We used that money for two years to do whatever we could to help DFS and foster parents,” Grellner said.
Seek Cash Donations
Now, the organization is asking for the public’s help again with the new campaign.
But this time, the organization wants only monetary donations.
“We would like to double or triple that amount ($11,000) due to the increase in foster children,” he remarked.
“We’ve found that it’s easier at 2 a.m. to go buy emergency clothing for children removed from a meth lab home, and get their exact sizes, than sort through donated clothing,” Grellner said.
Checks should be made out to Foundations for Franklin County Inc. and mailed to P.O. Box 149, Union, MO 63084.
Grellner has firsthand experience helping DFS with children who leave their homes with nothing because their clothes and other items are contaminated by meth.
Another reason the organization doesn’t want clothing this time is the problem of storing the large amount of items, Grellner said.
“The need is great,” Grellner commented.
In addition to helping foster children and the DFS, money raised in the campaign will go to support and grow services in the Franklin County area. Additional services will include financial support for the narcotics unit, prevention efforts, and support for individuals in the drug court program who are making progress in their rehabilitation from their addictive disease.
“Foundations for Franklin County and the Franklin County Narcotics Enforcement Unit complement each other in service to Franklin County citizens,” Grellner said. “While law enforcement is making great strides in the fight against narcotics crimes, we need the community to assist and support our efforts. With the loss of state and federal tax dollars, finances are tighter than they have ever been. We are asking for further support from the community to protect our children and protect Franklin County.”
Jennifer Slay, currently the prevention coordinator for the narcotics unit, has been named the first executive director to lead Foundations for Franklin County.
“While this is just a part-time role, I am very excited about the opportunities this presents,” said Slay.
“I have been involved with Foundations for Franklin County since its inception and have witnessed the passion of our volunteer board to take a holistic approach to the drug problems in our community. Foundations gives us the ability to bring together prevention, enforcement and rehabilitation to make a real and lasting impact on narcotics crimes in our area.”
Anyone interested in further support of Foundations efforts may contact Slay at 636-239-7652.