Placement in a foster home is not a guarantee for children who enter the foster care system,. While the number of available beds continues to grow every year, the rate of growth has failed to keep up with a rising number of placements keeping many kids from going to foster homes.
“It consumes my day,” said Felicia Carter, County Supervisor for Pulaski County South DCFS. For Carter, finding placements for children can take days, starting her work at 7 a.m. and going into the night. “There are some nights I have not seen my child.”
According to most recent Arkansas Department of Human Services reports, the number of children served by the foster care system has risen by nearly 1,400 children from 2005 to 2015. The number of children in care each fiscal year has gone up by over 1,000 children, while the number of open beds has risen by just over 600.
“We have children that come in every day, and we don’t have enough homes,” said DCFS Program Assistant Selina Porter. “Some have to go to facilities, centers, places you don’t want them to go.”
To become certified, foster parents have to undergo 30 hours of training over the course of nine weeks, as well as meet other requirements specified by DCFS. While this process is designed to bring qualified families into the system, applicants often fail to complete the entire course.
“We lose a lot of good families because they cannot find the time to spend getting approved,” said foster parent Jamie Barker.
To encourage more families to finish, organizations like The Call, who train and provide resources to foster families, work with the state to conduct training that covers the required material over the span of two weekends instead of the two months.
“The Call does a very good job,” says Carter. “I think they [foster parents] need to partner with The Call.”
To ensure that more homes continue to open, creating more open beds, Carter says that there need to be more voices advocating for change.
“DHS has got to put people on the ground,” she said. “We are going to have to put our heads together.”
With the foster care system being one of Gov. Hutchinson’s top priorities, which has brought money and attention to the issue, Carter is hopeful help is finally on the way.