At the present time, there are approximately 14,000 kids in foster care in Georgia and around 5,000 in Alabama. The number of kids in foster care in Georgia has doubled since 2010, triggering a foster care crisis in many counties around the state as more kids need placement in foster care than there are spots available. Siblings are sometimes separated and placed in different foster homes around the state because there are not enough spots in their own county. Alabama has also seen an increase in the need for foster care, with the number jumping 38% from 2015 to 2016.
What is behind THE crisis?
Many experts feel that the opioid abuse epidemic is contributing to the increase in the number of children being placed in foster care. While there is not specific data for our region, data for the US gathered by the Department of Health and Human Services shows that, of the total population of kids placed in foster care for the year, the percentage placed due to parental drug abuse increased from 32% in 2015 to 34% in 2016.
How does it work?
Children are removed from their birth parents by the state and placed with a foster family when they have been neglected or abused. This is often done on short notice, on an emergency basis. The goal of the foster care process is to eventually reunite the child with his biological family. While a child is in foster care, the state works with the parents on a reunification plan. If the reunification plan is not successful in the time period allotted by law, the state can ask the court to terminate the parental rights of the parents, and the child becomes eligible for adoption.
What is needed?
In Alabama and Georgia, more foster families are needed to meet the needs of the increased number of children being placed in foster care. The combined number of kids in foster care in Muscogee and Harris counties is about 500. The FaithBridge Foster Care Agency website reports that currently there are 92 new foster homes needed in Harris County and about 284 new homes needed in Muscogee County.
The rewards of being a foster parent are great. It is an opportunity to provide a loving, supportive home for a child while his birth parents receive the help they need to turn their lives around and to hopefully reunify their family. Those interested in foster parenting receive support from foster care agencies, such as local agency Benchmark Foster Care. These agencies walk prospective foster parents through the application process, help them register for required training and assign a partner from the agency to help resolve any issues that may arise once a child has been matched with their family and placed in their home.
What can I do to help?
We contacted Beth Greene, director of the Hope Foster Care Agency, one of the private agencies that work with Georgia DFACS to place children in foster homes. She says, “Pray for our foster families, the children they serve, and the birth families of these kids. Volunteer to cook dinner for a foster family, provide babysitting or tutoring services to a foster family, collect school supplies and toiletries for foster kids…offer to do yard or housework for a foster family… Share with your church family or in your workplace about the need for foster parents.”
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