In Focus: Meet the hidden victims of the heroin epidemic

Taking away labels, putting people into focus

CINCINNATI — Most children know too much about their favorite toys, video games and the hottest shows on TV.

Meet the Tri-State children who know too much about heroin.

“(These are) the kids who witness things that most adults wouldn’t be able to process,” said Georgine Getty, executive director at the GLAD House. "Kids at the age when they still plausibly believe in Santa Claus are trying to process that 'Mom put this needle into her arm and went all glassy-eyed, and I couldn’t get her to respond.’"

Their parents are among the thousands of Tri-State residents hooked on heroin — part of an epidemic that’s sweeping across the country and breaking up homes.  Heroin killed 213 people in Hamilton County alone last year, according to the county coroner’s office. Overdoses were the county's leading cause of accidental deaths.

READ MORE: Heroin addicts more likely to use in front of kids than other drug addicts, alcoholics

“We are absolutely forgetting about the kids,” Getty said. “We are trying to help people right now from literally dying on our streets. We’re going to be baffled by the next wave of human suffering that comes in 10 to 15 years if we ignore these kids … It might not be heroin, but it’ll be some other form of addiction."

We asked seven children: “What does heroin make you think about?”  Their answers reveal what the drug has done to their innocence. 

Brooklyn Louallen, 8, lives with her grandma in Independence, Kentucky. Her mother, Amanda Maxwell, 27, died of a heroin overdose in December 2014. Brooklyn now wears a necklace with her mother's ashes. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to her story: 

 

Joshua Hudson, 9, lived in foster care after Child Protective Services officials removed him and his siblings from their heroin-addicted parents’ home in 2013. Now, he lives in Newport with his grandma, Sherri Hudson, who has full and permanent custody of him. He talks to his mom and dad every Thursday. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to his story: 

 

Kaedynce Oneyear, 9, is living with her grandparents while her mother, Britney Dill, 28, is in treatment at the Brighton Recovery Center in Florence. Oneyear, who watched her mom get high for years, recently confronted Dill about what she saw. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to her story: 

 

Nick Smith, 13, of Newport thought the needles laying around his house were medicine that the doctor prescribed his mom and dad. His parents, addicted to heroin, lost custody of Nick and his siblings in 2013. After living in foster care for over a year, his grandmother stepped in to raise him and became the mother figure he was missing. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to his story: 

 

Hannah Patrick, 12, grew up watching her mother and father using heroin and cocaine. Her mother is still addicted. Her father is in prison. She lives with her grandma and 5-year-old sister in Elsmere, Kentucky. Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO

 

Listen to her story: 

 

Trenity Oneyear, 8, is living with her grandparents while her mother, Britney Dill, is in treatment at the Brighton Recovery Center in Florence. The 28-year-old, who used heroin in front of her two kids, said she has been sober for nine months. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to her story:

 

Alyson Hudson, 7, has lived in foster care and been homeless after her parents' addiction tore her away from them. Now, she lives in Newport with her grandma, who has full and permanent custody of her. (Taylor Mirfendereski | WCPO)

 

Listen to her story: 

In Focus is a continuing series focusing on a news topic or a community issue. In an effort to put that topic into focus, we ask a group of people to share something personal about themselves in reference to the issue. That revelation is shared on a piece of cardboard in the form of one sentence and in turn tells their story — taking away society’s label for them, bringing the person and their voice into focus.

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