More Children Need Foster Homes as Pandemic Places Greater Challenges on Stressed Families
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More than 400,000 children make up the foster care system in the United States. Experts say COVID-related family issues are likely to increase that number. But there is good news as more families show an interest in providing homes for kids in need.
Earlier this year when a video of a 9-year-old Oklahoma boy named Jordan pleading for a family hit the web, the story went viral.
"I would just like to have a family to call mom and dad or just mom or just dad," Jordan says in the video. "I don't really care."
In just twelve hours thousands of inquiries poured in to adopt Jordan, who had been in foster care for six years.
His case highlights the crisis of children stuck in America's foster care system.
"I think it's roughly about 424,000 right about now," Kimberly Offutt of Bethany Christian Services, told CBN News. "And roughly 125,000 of them are available for adoption. So, pre-pandemic we already had close to half a million kids in foster care."
Offutt said with lives disrupted due to the pandemic, many families are seeing a rise in substance abuse, domestic violence, and financial struggles.
"Pre-Covid, pre-pandemic, you were already stressing. You already didn't have the support system that you needed," she explained. "Now you add the loss of jobs, the loss of income, trying to teach your children at home. It's a lot of stress for our families, so you're seeing that increase in violence and increase in everything now."
That is why Bethany is offering families much needed support, such as meals, transportation, and babysitting, to keep them from having to place their children in foster care.
Through its "Safe Families Ministry," volunteers help vulnerable families by temporarily taking in their children while the parents regain stability.
"Those families really step in the gap when you have families in crisis," said Offutt. "So, our goal as an organization is to really keep families intact."
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Bethany is now offering information, training, and licensing online for those interested in foster care and adoption.
Offutt says, "We've seen a 55 percent increase in foster care parenting during the pandemic. That is encouraging because you see communities are responding to the needs of their neighbors. Families who found themselves with more free time."
"They're able to learn more about foster care and the licensing process being able to do that from the comfort of their home," added Offutt.
Another emerging trend Bethany has been seeing is more single parents getting involved in adoption.
"A lot of families think, 'Well if I'm not married I can't be a foster parent or I can't adopt,' Offutt commented. "That's not true. We have teenagers who may have experienced some really bad trauma and they may not feel comfortable in a two-parent home. So there is a need for single parents to serve our kids as well."
Meanwhile, to raise awareness for foster care and adoption amid the pandemic, on October 20, Bethany will be hosting a virtual event called "Family Changes Everything," featuring Francis Chan, Christian rap artist Lecrae and others.
"You'll hear the message and prayerfully be compelled to move forward and be a foster family, adopt, or support us in our efforts," said Offutt.
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