TUCSON, Ariz. — Our state is seeing an uptick in children entering foster care this year. Right now in Arizona, there are just over 14,300 children in care. That's about a thousand more than last year, that's a nearly 7% increase. Grace Retreat Foster Care and Adoption Services in Tucson says they are seeing more interest in foster parenting.
James Glover and Jessica Pyette are happy to say they are now foster parents to a little girl. “I just saw the great need and knew his heart for kids we just said why not,” said Pyette.
Fostering during COVID has brought on unexpected challenges. “We had to quarantine because of an exposure. That was definitely challenging to be kind of stuck with a child that is brand new to you. Everything’s new and your just stuck,” Pyette said.
Even through quarantine and a pandemic, the interest in foster care is growing.
“Recently we’ve had a lot of people reach out and want to do foster care, which is really amazing. We have people everyday pretty much reaching out and wanting to help.”
Christina Boatner is the founder of Grace Retreat Foster Care. She says they can place about two kids a week. She believes the growing interest is probably because more people are spending time at home.
“Also, I do think people have more time they’re home and they are able to do the training and the classes all online,” Boatner said. Online classes are part of the changes the agency has had to make. How they support foster families is also looking different nowadays.
“We have gotten families like chrome books and laptops because kids are attending school online. We are also doing the visits with their parents online. We’ve helped pay for internet bills because that has gone up,” said Boatner.
To help make sure the children are safe, Boatner and her staff work work with foster families to license, support, and monitor them. “And there’s DCS department of child safety. They are the guardians of children in foster care so they have been able to go out to the homes to check on the children.”
While some parts of the fostering process need to be in person, Boatner adds the pandemic has shown her how to reach more people.
“I think also good things have come out of it because we have realized we are able to do support groups over the computer and have them more often and it’s more accessible to people.”
More access and more families for kids in need. That’s what Grace Retreat is working towards.
“On our end this interest is amazing and we’re just trying to figure out how we’re going to meet that need. How we’re going to support the families, get them licensed and prepared to do it,” Boatner said.
Preparing families to do what James and Jessica are doing, being foster parents to a child that needs a loving home. “Kind of open your heart. Open your heart to it because it might change your life. It changed mine,” Glover said.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, you can reach out to Grace Retreat Foster Care.