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Need for foster families growing across Ohio

Posted at 6:38 AM, Jan 19, 2023
and last updated 2023-01-19 06:39:44-05

CANTON, Ohio — Right now, there’s a growing need for foster care families across the state of Ohio. More than 16,000 children are a part of the state’s foster care system. This growing trend comes as many areas are seeing a decrease in foster parents. It’s something being felt right now in Stark County.

“Currently we have 115 licensed homes. To put that in perspective, just four years ago we had 175,” said Rob Myers, Deputy Director of Stark County JFS' Division of Children Services.

One of the main reasons children are placed in the foster care system is drugs. It’s estimated half of all children in foster care are there because one or both of their parents are drug addicts. It’s a similar story in Stark County.

“I would say probably anywhere from half to two-thirds of our cases have some form of drug abuse involved, at a minimum,” Myers said.

Fostering a child is a big commitment for many, but it can also be very rewarding. Tom and Lori Hawkins have been foster parents since 2010. The Canton couple has taken in 13 children over the years and feel it gives them a purpose in life.

“We always said, if not, then if not us, then who?” Lori Hawkins said.

The Hawkinses also have three biological children and have learned what worked for their kids may not work for others.

“It's kind of like teaching. You have some students that learn one way, some students learn another, and you kind of must learn what's going to help them the most,” Tom Hawkins said.

Tom and Lori said one of the biggest concerns families have about fostering is getting too attached to a child.

“Guess what? That's the main goal — these kids need to attach to somebody. They need to know that they're special, unconditionally, that they have worth,” Lori said.

“If it's on your heart and you have the ability to help others, you know, I don't think it's anything that could be greater than to help a child out,” Tom said.

Even if you don't have the space or resources to take in a child, the Hawkinses told us there are other things you can do to help foster families.

“It can be a meal. It can be, 'Hey, I'm going to come over and help. I'm going to watch the kids when you guys go out,'” Lori said.

Along with their three biological children, Tom and Lori have also adopted one of their foster placements. It's something the deputy director of children services told News 5 he's seeing more of, and the hope is this will encourage more families to sign up to foster.

To learn more about becoming a foster family, click here.

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