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Need for foster parents growing, teens are most in need

Nearly 15,000 kids live somewhere other than their parents' homes across Ohio. But, there are only 6,000 foster homes available, a state foster care agency said.

FINDLAY, Ohio — There are nearly 15,000 kids living somewhere other than their parents' homes all across the state, according to the state government. But, there are only 6,000 foster homes available.

The disparity between these numbers is made even more impactful since there are 1,000 teenagers in Ohio who are in need of a foster home.

"Teens. If anything, those are the ones that need the most help and need the most support from parents," Abigail Starcher, a social worker with Specialized Alternatives for Families and Youth, said. 

SAFY, a nonprofit state foster care agency, says finding homes for teens, and more specifically pregnant teens, teen moms and teens who are LGBTQ+, is difficult. But, Estrella Alvarez said fostering teens is very rewarding.

"What about that 16-year-old who never had someone who wanted to hug them?" Alvarez, a recruiter for SAFY's Findlay branch, said. "What about that 10-year-old, that, all they want is to make somebody proud of them? What about that 12-year-old, all they want to do is play basketball and have somebody in the stands cheering them on? What about that child?"

SAFY takes in children from across northwest Ohio when local child protective service agencies can't find homes for them. But SAFY is running out of homes for children, Alvarez said.

"For every home that we get, we might be losing one or two homes," she said. "But, for every home we have, and we lose, there are hundreds of kids waiting for a home in our state."

Currently, Ohio requires foster parents to be at least 18 years old, earn enough money to support themselves and have enough room for a child to stay with them. There are also additional requirements.

Starcher said anyone with a love for children should consider fostering them.

"Your race, ethnicity, background, sexual orientation, none of that matters," Starcher said. "It won't hold you back. If anything, those things are all an asset to help you understand where a kid could be coming from."

SAFY tries to place siblings together, but any sibling group of three or more makes this a challenge.

While every foster child has a unique set of circumstances, Alvarez said there is one thing of the utmost importance to know: "It is never a youth's fault for needing fostering services."

Starcher said SAFY comes to the homes to work with kids, sometimes bi-weekly, so they can process and foster parents can learn how to connect with the kids.

"It's about consistency and showing up for them," Starcher said. "I've seen times where the kid's only been in the home for a couple of months and they're already calling that foster parent dad, and that's great." 

For more information on how to become a foster parent, click here.

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