The risks to children are widespread: the secrets of drug abuse they must keep, even the chance of losing a parent to overdose

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Some of the youngest victims of heroin aren't getting high. Instead the drug is making them homeless.

"Heroin is the No. 1 reason that we've seen this increase in the number of children in custody," said Geauga County Job and Family Services Executive Director Tim Taylor.

Those cases are falling on the desk of Juvenile Court Probate Judge Tim Grendell. He says the most common user is often the mother.

"Our biggest problem here has been 20- to 38-year-old women who are using heroin and have children, younger children," he said.

The county's numbers reflect the uptick. In April 2010, only three cases involved opiates. In 2013, that number was 23. In just 16 daysthis month, it's at 11 cases.

Grendell puts it simply to these parents: "If you want your children, you've got to give up the heroin. You've got to pick one or the other."

"The addiction becomes more important than the kids?" asked WKYC's Sara Shookman.

"It becomes more important than almost anything," said Taylor.

The risks to children are widespread: the secrets of drug abuse they must keep, even the chance of losing a parent to overdose.

"It's always very heartbreaking to see that happen," said Geauga County Social Services Director Gina Schultz.

Grendell's FLIP program helps put parents in treatment sooner, when it can really make a difference. But more children are needing permanent placements.

The rate of relapse is high. The rate of recovery is low.

And while the system seeks a family placement first, sometimes the drug problem impacts other relatives -- straining foster care.

"We are running out of families that are able to take the children that are coming into custody," said Schultz. She says they are working with another firm to market to families that might be open to fostering.

With heroin cheap and easy to find, there's no solution in sight.

"I think anybody that doesn't think (heroin's) going to be with us is kidding themselves," said Grendell.

Geauga County launched an opiate task force to help oversee intervention strategies across multiple agencies, seeing where everyone can lend a hand. County commissioners are using money from the general fund to support the efforts.

They hope that people are noticing all the costs that come from this drug and stop before they'd ever start.

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