Foster care shortage leading to crisis in North Carolina, data shows

Currently, about 12,000 children are in the state’s child welfare system.
Right now in North Carolina, there are around 12,000 children in the child welfare system.
Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:31 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Right now in North Carolina, there are around 12,000 children in the child welfare system.

Kids who desperately need someone to take them in. To give them a bed to sleep in. A meal to eat. Someone to give them stability and a chance at some normalcy.

You’d be surprised right now how many counties are having kids sleep at their offices. Some, unfortunately, are having to sleep kids at the county jail.

The issue isn’t so much a sharp rise in kids needing foster care, rather it’s a decline in licensed foster homes.

Numbers compiled by the foster care support organization iFoster from 2018 to 2022 show the number of homes was going up until the pandemic in 2020. Since then they have been coming down.

The drop was 23 percent between 2021 and 2022.

Before taking a job at a foster care organization, Mikaila Reinhardt herself was a foster child.

Mikaila Reinhardt is a Family Recruitment Specialist for Children’s Home Society of North Carolina. It’s a place that trains and supports foster families, and is one of the organizations the Department of Social Services calls when they have a child in need of a foster family.

“There are children that are sleeping in DSS offices are sleeping in shelters or hotels,” she said. “It’s really sad how many times we have to say no, because we don’t have the foster parents.”

One of the biggest hurdles facing potential foster parenthood is the attachment, Reinhardt said.

“I think that a lot of people think that if they go into foster care, they have the mindset, if they go into foster care, they’re gonna love a child and it’s just gonna be ripped from them,” she said. “But I sit and I think about like, ‘can you imagine what that child is going through?’ Without you though, without someone with that heart? Because people with that heart are the people that we need.”

With CHS, it takes about four to six months to get licensed as a foster parent.

That time includes the period it takes for things like background checks and home studies.

“Help in any way that you can, even if it’s not being a foster parent, share the word, support CHS,” Reinhardt said. “Network with us and let us come speak at your church.”

If you’d like to learn more about being a foster parent, Children’s Home Society of North Carolina can help. You can find more information here.

Related: Hundreds of children in foster care in Mecklenburg, Gaston counties, far fewer foster homes