TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN9) — Even before the pandemic, many children found themselves without a home across the country. In 2016, there were almost 19,000 kids in the Arizona foster care system.
“That number had dropped as low as 13,000, about a year ago. And then we've seen that no more slowly tick up throughout the pandemic" Mike Faust, the director of Arizona Department of Child Safety.
While the number has dropped since then, the pandemic caused the number to increase. Before the pandemic, there were about 13,000 children in the Arizona foster care system. Since then, the number has grown to around 14,000 children between the ages of 0 to 17.
From January to June of 2021, over 700 foster homes in Arizona closed down, according to the Arizona Department of Child Safety's semi-annual child welfare report from September. Faust said it's a complex system with a lot of moving parts but there has always been a need for foster families.
"probably in the last six months, I think people are fatigued from the pandemic," he said. "The demands that we that are placed on them as being a contributor to the foster care system can be significant."
Organizations in Southern Arizona like Grace Retreat Foster Care and Adoption Services works to connect families with support and place children in safe homes.
“Recently there are a lot more kids in need of foster families," Christina Palma, the founder of Grace Retreat, said. "And in Arizona we are actually at an all time low for foster families so we are working hard to get the word out for the need for foster families.”
Many of the workers at Grace Retreat foster and adopt children as well. Marnie Greggs, a product of the system herself, has fostered and adopted several children.
“I truly believe that we are changing these kids lives but changing their children’s lives,” Greggs said.
She adopted her daughter Aneilla in 2019. Aneilla spent 874 days in foster care and finally was adopted into the Greggs family along with her sister. The Greggs family said the emotional day in the court room was something they will never forget."
"I’m so glad I got adopted by these people because I get to be with my siblings, ” Aneilla said. "It just means a lot that these people could take care of me when my biological mom couldn't. They did a favor for her and they definitely did one for me."
Aneilla, who dreams of being an actress and enjoys spending time with her friends, said in foster care, it's easy to lose hope.
"Keep believing because you will find a family someday,” she said.
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