On any given day, we have more than 2,100 children in custody. In addition to the 1,100 children in certified foster homes, the remaining 1,000 are children living with relatives or family friends, teenagers living on their own and preparing for life after foster care, or children living in residential centers, group homes or medical facilities.
Sadly, this increase in children coming into care is similar to trends seen around the state and country. Child welfare systems across the country – already stretched thin – are seeing their numbers grow and are struggling to meet the demand. The reasons are varied here and across the country – heroin is certainly a reason, but not the only reason.
What we do know is that our colleagues across the country are seeing many of the same issues – substance abuse, untreated mental illness and violence. In fact, 70% of the cases in Hamilton County have all three issues occurring at the same time. We are working with many of our local, state and national colleagues on solutions that will stem the tide.
Today, I want to focus on our 1,100 foster children. I am putting out a call for help!
We currently have been able to place all our children needing a home in a certified foster home, but there is still a growing, constant need for more foster homes in Hamilton County. We have more than 500 foster homes in Hamilton County, but many of them are limited in the types and ages of children they will accept.
So, what happens? Our children go to homes outside our county. Right now, 42 percent of the 1,100 children in our custody are in foster homes in another county. This is also near, if not at, an all-time high in our history!
We are grateful for those options. A city child might get to experience country life. A child with a disability or special need will go to a family that has experience and is well-equipped to care for the child. A loving family in a small county that has limited adoption options might get the chance to care for a child they will eventually take into their family and love as their own.
When children are placed outside our county, there can be complications. Imagine, not only is the child removed from the only family they know, but they are disconnected from their school, friends and neighborhood. They may even have medical and therapy appointments in a different city or town, making transportation needs more complicated. Family reunification visits with their biological parents – remember, foster care is a temporary solution and safe reunification is always the goal – can become more challenging because of the distance.
We need homes closer to our children’s neighborhoods. And, we need homes willing to take all of our children. There is a dire need for homes willing to accept teenagers. We need homes willing to take larger sibling sets. Lastly, we need homes prepared for children with special needs and children exposed to severe trauma and heartache.
Starting today, you’ll see us using the hashtag #bring40home as a reminder that there are children looking for homes in Hamilton County. I am asking you to help. Spread the word amongst your friends. Nudge that family member who is considering fostering. Take the plunge yourself and go to an information session.
We work with a wonderful network of foster care providers who are all accepting new families. You can find a complete list on HCKIDS.org, along with helpful information about foster parenting. You can also meet some of the children we have available for adoption, which will give you an idea of the children you might ultimately foster or adopt!
Eleven hundred children need your help! The need is great. Please answer the call!