Children in foster care increase amid shortage of foster families


BUTTE, Mont. - A record number of Montana Children need a safe home, but there's a shortage of foster families in some areas. We combed through data compiled by the state, which shows there are about 2,000 foster children. Compare that to the most recent number of licensed foster homes -- just 959. In 2011, the state took 978 children from their homes and placed them in foster care. The number went up in 2012 to 1,043, and then last year, just over 1,500. In Butte, a nonprofit that helps children find families tell us they receive multiple calls but know of just a handful of homes. It's Mallory Grunow's job to help find safe homes for kids who might be in trouble, but right now, she says, "I have to turn most of them away just because they don't have any." Grunow said there are just six foster families in Butte. "The ratio is just so high from kids to foster families, kids that just need someone to love them and have a childhood with and make them feel safe and secure, and we just don't have enough," said Grunow. Montana Family and Child Services told us more than 2,000 children are currently in foster care and the number continues to grow. "With that high of number of children in care right now, across the board, we would welcome families taking applications to become a resource parent," said Child and Family Services Field Services Manager Adell Wearly. Child and Family Services couldn't tell us why the number has increased, but told us that the majority of calls -- 80 percent -- to the state's child abuse and neglect hotline are for neglect -- things like constant hunger, poor hygiene and lack of supervision. Wearly said the number of reports through the child abuse and neglect hotline has also increased -- 10 percent were for physical abuse, 4 percent for psychological abuse. "So it very much is that we are in need of," said Wearly. Demand for families to place troubled or endangered children isn't being met. Part of that could be that the process for approval can be lengthy and involve background checks and in home inspections. "(We) very much appreciate the fact that individuals are willing to be considered as a resource, but there's also our policies and procedures that have to be followed in order to get them licensed and approved,"said Wearly. Grunow said getting kids with families is important, not just for their short-term well-being. "When we have good solid bases for these kids and a safe environment for them to grow up, in typically they'll become a functioning part of society," Grunow said. The Child and Family Services division of the Montana Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for placing children into protective care, including foster care. The agency said foster parents must meet a number of requirements before a child will be placed in their home. Those include a criminal and Child Protective Services background check and appropriate reference checks, a home safety inspection and prove they have enough income to support the current family without the foster care reimbursement. If you are interested learning more about fostering a child you can call the Montana Department of Health and Human Services at 1-866-936-7837.

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