TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Amanda Barela is cherishing the simple moments with her almost 2-year-old son, Zayden.
"He's a happy baby," said Barela.
It's the laughs during bath time and tucking him in for bed that she wishes she could have been there for over the past two years.
"I was on heroin and meth for six years. I lost everything," said Barela.
Zayden went straight into foster care after he was born.
"They cared for him like he was their own," said Barela.
"As much as my family loved him, and still love him, we just set that foundation. We know he is going to soar with mom," said Zayden's former foster mom, Heather Cervantez.
Cervantez and her family cared for Zayden through GAP Ministries' Foster Care Program in Tucson. GAP recruits, licenses, and certifies people who are interested in opening their home to a foster child.
"I go into it as if I'm there shoes. What would I want for the person watching my child? I would be nervous. I wouldn't want to do anything to make them upset because they're watching my kiddos," said Cervantez.
The Cervantez family has fostered six kids over the last four years. They also help future foster parents get ready for that commitment.
"All of our licensing workers have been foster or adoptive parents. When we're working with kinship, respite or foster families, we've already been through that process just like they're going through," said Cervantez.
The Cervantez family hopes to continue opening their home, but more importantly, their hearts, to help kids like Zayden.
"I was really scared at first that he was going into foster care, but I'm glad he did. I wouldn't have wanted it any other way," said Barela.
Barela has been sober since November 6, 2019.
According to a recent report from Arizona Department of Child Safety, nearly 14,000 kids are in foster care in the state. Nearly 3,000 of those kids live in Southern Arizona (Pima, Santa Cruz and Cochise counties). Only 3,700 homes in Arizona are licensed to provide foster care. Many foster homes care for multiple children.
To learn how you can help, visit www.gapmin.com.