INDIANAPOLIS — Since the pandemic began, the need for foster care families has increased. That's according to one local foster care agency.
"Right now, there's a lot of research being done, but the University of Chicago has actually looked at historical events that have been kind of similar in the way of child welfare is [with how] COVID has hit with our communities,” Samantha Hasty, Lead Foster Parent Recruiter with SAFY of Indiana, a foster agency with a focus on therapeutic foster care, said.
“They were actually able to show that the need increases almost double. Just because these kids they were going home and going to school every day, right? And they had that routine, and those behaviors were being seen. So, abuse or neglect was getting caught earlier on or sooner or more often, because teachers are mandated reporters," she explained. "They have to turn in suspicious things that they are questioning. But if they're working from home, if they are doing Skype in school and things like that, it's much harder to catch them in these situations. When they are being caught, we are seeing a lot more intense situations of neglect and abuse.”
Hasty said that every day, 700 kids go into the foster system and every year, 500,000 kids across the United States transition to the foster system. In Indiana, 15,000 kids a year enter the foster care system and she said the majority of the need centers in Marion County. And, every week the agency gets about 100 calls just for Marion County placements.
“By the time we go through all the homes that are licensed in central Indiana, Marion County-area, six kids still need a bed every single week,” Hasty said.
“I love children and I’ve always wanted to be a foster parent even when my children were younger,” Robin Woody, a foster parent through SAFY along with her husband, Kinton Harrell, said.
“The real reason I wanted to be involved with her, we want to be one unit, so also it makes me feel good that we are making a difference in these kids lives,” Harrell said.
The Woody-Harrell household is a pre-adoptive and sibling home. In total, they have fostered nine children and right now, they're fostering two sisters ages 14 and 11.
“Patience is the key word. It’s very gratifying but at the same time it can be very overwhelming,” Woody said.
Hasty said she is looking for Hoosiers to join the Woody-Harrell family in becoming foster parents in order to provide those six kids with stability.
“What happens to those six kids if they end up in a group home? A shelter of sorts where they don’t actually get a good placement, the care, the intentional effort to look at them?” Hasty said.
Hasty said two-thirds of the time children in Indiana’s foster system are reunified, but still, a third need forever homes.
“This is not a problem that is going to go away. When we talk about abuse and neglect in our Indiana homes, we are not talking about a problem that’s getting better all on its own. We have a systemic issue,” Hasty said.
SAFY's approach extends to the entire family and provides things like therapy to foster parents.
“We are looking at somebody who is flexible, somebody who is energetic who really enjoys children. Who kind of those basic things but I always tell people that have a really good sense of humor because kids, you gotta love them,” Hasty said.
While sometimes nerve-wracking, Woody and Harrell agree fostering is always worth it.
“Open your heart and try. Give it a chance and see where it takes you,” Harrell said.
With an increased demand, SAFY of Indiana is also hiring. For open positions, click here.
To learn more on how to become a foster parent with SAFY, click here.