WAYNE, N.J. - "I couldn’t breathe. My daughter is my life," sobbed Crystal Green, when she recalled the moment her daughter, Serenity, 4, was taken by the authorities.
The news threw her into an even deeper spiral of addiction.
"I was living under a bridge in Paterson. I started using full force, you know, her father and me," said Green.
A new study has linked the opioid crisis to an increase of babies and toddlers in foster care.
"The number of children in foster care has not necessarily risen but the type of case that we have in the system has changed," said Erica Fischer-Kaslander, executive director of Passaic County CASA, a non-profit that works with foster children.
CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocates, currently serves about 250 children per year in Passaic County. About half of them have parents who are addicted.
Green wound up in county jail. Visits from her daughter empowered her to change her life.
"She just wants her mom, doesn't matter, like my past," she said.
She was also visited by Cynthia Sobelman, a volunteer advocate with CASA.
"I don’t think I’d be where I am at today if I didn’t meet Cynthia," said Green.
CASA is experiencing a backlog of cases. They need more volunteers like Sobelman and more funding. The organization is on a mission to pair one highly-trained volunteer with every child in foster care.
"It’s an epidemic now, and I think there are going to be a lot of children that are going to be in need of CASA as time goes on," said Sobelman.
More information on how to volunteer or donate can be found here.
With help from CASA and after months of hard work, Green was reunited with her daughter.
"For any other mother out there that's fighting for their children or child - to not give up," she said.