Foster care shortage in Jackson County

Jackson County kids in need of emergency housing are starting to sleep in offices.

Beds were recently added at the Department of Human Services to make up for a lack of foster parents.

In September of 2011,  Jackson County had 365 kids in foster care.

Now, that number has increased to 411.

Without enough foster parents, some kids are having to sleep in an office at Jackson County’s DHS.

“We don’t have the foster homes that we need,” Child Welfare Supervisor Jan Hall said.

It’s a problem that’s causing Jackson County’s Department of Human Services to get creative.

The office recently converted an office into a bedroom to help house kids who need emergency housing.

The bed was put into use last week.

“We knew our time was coming. Luckily we had this room finished and we were able to put her here,” Hall said.

Child Welfare workers say it isn’t ideal, but it’s their only choice.

“We wish that there wasn’t a need, but unfortunately there really is a need,” Hall said.

A class action lawsuit filed against Oregon Tuesday says housing children in hotels and offices violates laws.

But State Representative Duane Stark says it may be the only answer unless the community comes together.

“If we see children in need, we need to step up. We need to open our homes and we need to take these children in so that there isn’t a shortage, and the agency isn’t forced to put people in hotels,” Stark said.

But opening your home isn’t always easy.

The president of Jackson County’s Foster Parent Association has been a foster parent for 20 years.

She says it can be quite demanding.

“It’s difficult for a lot of people to want to take that step, and it can be fearsome,” Sharon Bowling said.

But those who work with the children in need say the rewards are much greater.

“You’re helping a child that needs somebody. They need the stability, they need the love, they need somebody to be there and to nurture them… and what’s better? What’s better in this world than knowing that you helped a child,” Hall said.

If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, go to the DHS website, or look them up on Facebook.

 

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