Recruiting foster parents: Ohio child welfare agencies say need is urgent

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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Right now in Ohio, there are almost 16,000 children in foster care.

In the last four years, that number has jumped by more than 23 percent.

Many of those kids are orphans of the opioid crisis in the state.

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Now child welfare agencies are stepping up their efforts to recruit foster families.

The walls of Victoria Best's home are framed with love: photos of her four children, three of whom are now adults and on their own.

Last year she decided there was room in her home, and her heart, for more.

"If you live here and pay attention, you have to know there's issues the community has," Best said. "And everyone has a way that they can contribute or help."

For Victoria, that was deciding to be a foster parent.

"It was surprisingly easy once you talked to somebody. Because they were like, 'you just come to these classes and we'll help you get certified.' And that's exactly what happened. It was very fast."

On a Friday night last October, she got the call.

"They had a 15-year-old, she needed to be re-homed, and they didn't know who would take a 15-year-old late on a Friday night. And I said why not? She can come. And it turns out she had a 2-year-old. And eventually, the 2-year-old was also placed here so they could be in the same home together."

That's when her household of two, became four. She says the work and the worry have paid off in ways she couldn't have imagined.

"I probably will do this forever. Or as long as I can. Because I just think that...I can't say 'Oh I'm really good at it.' But what I can say is that I really enjoy it. And that perhaps it's helpful to the kids that have been here. Just learning how to have more positive relationships."

Susan Lewis Kaylor leads the St. Vincent Family Center, which is doubling the size of its foster care program.

"Right now in Franklin County, we have 3000 more children today than we did 7 years ago," she said. "Most of those children have been abandoned by addiction. And we need more foster families to serve those needs."

To help meet that demand, St. Vincent is holding open houses to introduce potential parents to fostering and the support that's available.

"Anybody who's ever thought about being a foster family- if you've ever considered it, it will be your best job ever. We can provide all the supports needed. we'll be your teacher, your coach, your advocate. We will walk with you and your child every step of the way."

Today, Victoria says she cares for her two foster children as if they were her own.

She knows they likely won't stay with her.

"Even if that happens," she said, choking back her emotions, "the benefit that the child gets from having been here is more than anything that you would...it's kind of like, yeah maybe you have to be sad if you've bonded, but you have to remember why you did it in the first place.

If the child benefits and they're moving to something better then it doesn't matter. All I can say is that I'm happy to have been part of it."

If you'd like to learn more about becoming a foster parent, Saint Vincent is holding three open houses over the next two weeks:

  • Tuesday, September 18 at 6:30 PM at the Columbus Metropolitan Library-Hilliard Branch (4500 Hickory Chase Way, 43026)
  • Thursday, September 20 at 7:00 PM at St. Vincent Family Center (1490 East Main Street, 43205)
  • Wednesday, September 26 at 6:30 PM at the Canal Winchester Community Center (22 South Trine Street, 43110)

Click here to register, or contact Jill Frost at (614) 585-9473 for more information.

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