GREENSBORO — During the past four years, George Still and his wife have opened their home to foster children in several different cities and states.
Since April, they’ve been caring for kids in Guilford County — one of 24 foster homes licensed here since the county launched a recruiting program aimed at bringing new foster parents into the system.
The county currently has 83 licensed foster homes providing shelter and care for children who are separated from their families by the court system. It’s a large increase from nine months ago, when the county first began a push to actively recruit foster parents.
But the number of children in foster care continues to grow and more homes are needed to meet the demand, according to Fran George, a social work supervisor for the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services.
“As we gain new homes, we lose others, whether through adoption or other reasons,” she said. “So even though we’ve gotten that 24, we still need new homes.”
Guilford County has roughly 463 kids needing foster care, though the number fluctuates.
When private homes are full and a child’s relatives can’t provide care, DHHS will contact a third-party agency to find a placement. Typically, those arrangements are more expensive, and allow the county less direct supervision over care.
“It’s much better if they’re in our homes, because then we provide the support for them,” George said. “But if a child needs a home, then a child needs a home, and we find a placement for them.”
The county in November launched a recruitment effort to combat the shortage. The promotion included billboards, radio ads, a revamped website and a hotline, as well as a push aimed at area churches and panel discussions where residents could ask questions and hear stories from experienced foster parents.
Those events are key, according to Still, who sat on a panel at a recent event. Fostering can seem daunting, he said, and speaking to people who have experience with it is the best way to learn more about the process.
“A lot of the things that come up in conversations talking about our experience are things that would not have come up in a traditional class,” he said. “Things like meeting children for the first time, working through where they may be when they come to your home.”
If you think you might make a good foster parent, Still said, chances are you probably would.
“You don’t need to be a perfect parent, you don’t need to be the wealthiest person in the world,” he said. “These kids really need love and attention and our time. If you have the time to devote to them, then you’d be a great foster parent.”
Contact Kate Elizabeth Queram at (336) 373-7003, and follow @KateElizabethNR on Twitter.