If you live in North Carolina, Tennessee or Kentucky and you’ve ever considered becoming a foster parent, now is the time to take action. Even before COVID-19, there was a shortage of foster parents and foster homes. Today, new challenges created by the pandemic means more children are in need than ever before.
More Foster Kids, Fewer Foster Parents
The issue is: there are many more kids in the foster care system than in the past — and fewer certified foster parents to take care of them.
The increase in children needing foster care stems from a variety of issues, including an increase in parental substance abuse. With financial instability on the rise due to the pandemic and current economic conditions, some parents are struggling to care for their children. Factors include:
- Greater employment challenges
- Increased food insecurity
- Educational disruption
- Heightened depression and anxiety
Omni Visions Foster Care office in Paducah, Kentucky — to cite one example — currently has 38 cases, up from the 25 we might normally see. We don’t have enough foster homes in which to place those children, and have had to turn away referrals from the Department of Community-Based Services (DCBS).
Janet Bloomingburg, resource coordinator for Omni Family, recently told WPSD-6 TV that “the critical need is so high right now that we hear of children having to sleep on the floor in the DCBS office.”
It’s a heartbreaking situation caused in part by the fact that there are fewer foster parents available. Again, financial considerations are playing a major role.
Some parents are not able to accept placements because of the economic fallout from the pandemic, either because of job loss or an increase in the cost of living. In other cases, placements are delayed.
Meanwhile, fewer families are willing to take in foster children because of fear of spreading COVID-19. Potential foster parents may be immunocompromised or have health issues that make them worry about expanding their family. Many times, foster parents have other children or vulnerable family members they need to consider.
Even worse, the pandemic has caused some current foster homes to close their doors leaving us with fewer loving and safe homes for vulnerable children.
Addressing the Shortage of Foster Parents
The good news is that states like North Carolina, Tennessee and Kentucky are working hard to address the shortage of foster parents.
- Working to raise public awareness via the media
- Creating new advertising campaigns
- Streamlining the licensing process
- Shortening the length of time it takes to obtain certification
- Providing more in-depth training and support to foster parents
- Offering new incentives to entice potential foster parents
- Encouraging local communities — especially churches and businesses — to rally behind foster parents
“There’s a lot of people that might be intimidated by thinking about being a foster parent. But if you’ve ever thought about it — if you ever feel like you want to give back, my suggestion is to just call,” Bloomingburg told WPSD-6. “If you are over 25 and you have a stable home, a spare bed and love in your heart, that’s about all it takes to be a foster parent.”
In other words, Omni Family and other foster care agencies aren’t merely interested in traditional two-parent families. Single parents and empty-nesters also encouraged to apply, as are same-sex couples, retired individuals, and parents who have their own kids.
Meanwhile, you can support existing foster parents by providing financial donations or cooking a family meal. And there is always a need for respite care providers, who step in so foster parents can take a few days off for business or pleasure.
Our most vulnerable children need a safe, nurturing home; they need adults that can support them. Lives can be changed for the better – both those of the children and foster parents.
Want to Become a Foster Parent?
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, we encourage you to complete our request form or to contact the Omni Visions foster care office near you. Since 1991 Omni has specialized in providing training and support to caregivers so foster children can reach their fullest potential. Together we can provide a brighter future for our children.