As Arkansas works to fix the foster care crisis, new foster families find themselves experiencing the issues firsthand.
“There is absolutely a crisis in the state,” said James Barker, who, with his wife, Allie, have been fostering for nearly a year.
Receiving their training through The Call, an organization that trains and supports foster parents, the Barkers quickly experienced issues with the fostering system. In their first six months as foster parents, they received nearly twenty requests to take in children, even though they were only allowed to foster two at a time.
“Looking at sheer numbers,” said James, “it is evident we have a problem.”
Along with a lack of homes, the Department of Human Services has faced employment shortages, with caseworkers often working double the recommended caseload. According to Selina Porter, a program assistant for DHS in Pulaski County, caseloads can be as high as 40 cases per worker.
Combining overworked DHS employees with the lack of foster families, Porter said the task of placing children is daunting.
“We have children that come into care every day, and we don’t have enough homes,” Porter said.
For Barker, a solution that would put more foster homes in areas where they are needed would be to expedite the learning process.
“I think it would be a huge help to streamline the approval process,” said Barker. “We lose a lot of real families because they cannot find the time to spend getting approved.”
According to a special report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services in 2016, plans to speed up the approval process are in the works, including an improved tracking and monitoring process as well as working more closely with private organizations such as The Call and creating a system in which applicants can apply online.
For more information on foster care, visit fosterarkansas.org.