Ron Bertsch

Previously published March 2016

Josh is one of the young people served at DCCH. He is another victim of the heroin epidemic. His mom overdosed. His dad was given custody, but was later sentenced to prison on heroin charges.

At five, Josh entered foster care. He witnessed domestic violence, moved from place to place, felt the pain of physical abuse and suffered unimaginable neglect. Yet, he survived! Josh learned to trust in a new foster family. They fed and clothed him, sheltered and nursed him, comforted, counseled and guided him. They patiently forgave him when he was angry and acted out.

When the court terminated his parents' rights, Josh found a forever family. A wonderful couple committed to adopting Josh and showed him the same compassion. They wanted to become a mom and dad to a child like Josh, who was a victim of the heroin epidemic. Yet this couple did not wish addiction, pain and suffering on Josh or his parents. They wish they could have prevented such things. Now, they pray together for his mom and dad, his big sister and even his beloved dog.

By the end of 2015, DCCH statistics showed 72% of the foster children in our program had parents who were addicted to heroin or died of an overdose. In the last few years, referrals for children entering foster care have risen over 1000%, from an average of 30 children a month to over 300. Heroin is an ugly drug; it shows no favoritism, it does not discriminate. It affects men, women and youth with a grip that professionals have not seen before. Heroin attacks the rich, the poor, urban and suburban communities, all races and religions.

NKY Hates Heroin founder Holly Specht spoke at the DCCH foster parent support group meeting last month. She was asked to share her story of how her son died of an accidental heroin overdose. She shared what she, her husband, family and friends are doing to combat the epidemic. Prevention, education and reducing the stigma of heroin is NKY Hates Heroin's mission. Holly helped put a human face on a heroin addict. She helped us realize that addicts have parents, families and friends. She helped us see another side of the epidemic; not just the harm caused to children.

This is important because some might not understand the whole problem. I had someone say, "I’m not going to be a babysitter for some damn drug addict" or "why don’t they just overdose, die and free the child". Maybe fear or ignorance causes this lack of empathy. However, to truly help these children, , we must show mercy everyone.

I don’t have all the answers or know how to cure heroin addiction, but I believe Pope Francis in declaring the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy is offering a guide. Mercy is the answer to the sorrow, confusion and despair of so many who are searching! Can we seek and accept God’s mercy, and can we offer it to others?

During Lent, St. Therese Parish in Southgate, handed out a book assembled by Matthew Kelly, entitled Beautiful Mercy. It details the many ways we can show mercy and kindness to others. Foster and adoptive parents have the opportunity to perform these works of mercy right in their own homes! I recommend Beautiful Mercy from It serves as a great inspiration and guide for us to become more Christ-like and opens us to receive and show mercy.

Love has no bounds; it cannot be taken to an extreme. Let us love, seek and give mercy. If you're interested in performing works of mercy through fostering or adoption, please call DCCH to learn more at (859) 331-2040 or