AKRON, Ohio — Dannika Stevenson has fostered 15 kids in six years. The latest is a 2-month-old baby girl being provided with comfort, care and nourishment inside an Akron home.
"I don't have any biological children of my own so I feel like they were birthed from the heart, each child I've had in my home," Stevenson said.
Stevenson knows there are many challenges that come with being a foster parent— especially giving the child back when family reunification takes place— but she never imagined finding enough baby formula would be one of the major difficulties.
"There's tons of shortages out there. Formula would be the last thing I thought there would be a shortage of," she said.
Stevenson has some preemie formula on hand but is trying to avoid using it because the baby has outgrown it. She has two ready-to-feed formula bottles, but with the baby needing six to seven feedings a day, those will only last a couple of days.
She said a friend is planning to bring her more formula later this week. Meantime, the foster mom has been driving all over Northeast Ohio and looking for formula in various stores. She also regularly searches websites, such as Amazon, and social media pages.
"Even though I might have enough for a few days, you have to keep searching for it. I mean, you cannot take a rest. You have to find it."
Stevenson said a private agency recently asked her to foster another baby, but she declined due to the lack of available formula.
"I couldn't afford to do that because I thought I'm struggling to find formula for the baby that I have now. To take on another baby to find formula just would have been impossible."
The nationwide baby formula shortage has been a source of stress for parents for a few months.
The first batch of imported specialty baby formula from "Operation Fly Formula" was flown into Indiana over the weekend.
A C-17 military cargo plane was used to fly 78,000 pounds of formula from Germany. That's enough for 500,000 eight-ounce bottles, which could feed 9,000 babies and 18,000 toddlers for a week.
That shipment is heading to hospitals and medical providers to distribute to parents whose babies are allergic to cow milk proteins.
President Joe Biden also announced the first two Defense Production Act authorizations meant to boost baby formula production in the U.S. One gives formula maker Abbott nutrition priority orders of raw materials.
Nikk Maffei, from the Summit County's Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, said the formula shortage is stressful because availability varies from day to day, but the agency is monitoring the situation and the supply both locally and throughout Ohio.
"We try to get them what they need, as far as that goes, especially if they have a specialty formula," Maffei said.
Maffei added that parents struggling to find formula should contact a WIC clinic for guidance and advice.
"Please reach out to us before you make any changes to your child's formula, or if you have any questions on how to feed them properly. We want to make sure that the babies get the nutrition that they need," she said.
As for Stevenson, she'll continue doing what she considers to be "her calling" and foster children. She only hopes the formula to get formula gets easier.
"I would just say be prayerful, stay connected to your network of friends and family."