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More than 800 kids await foster care in Summit County, over 4 times the number of foster homes

Summit County generic
Posted at 3:36 PM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-05 14:52:19-04

AKRON, Ohio — Right now, there are more than 800 children in Summit County waiting to be connected with a foster family and less than 200 licensed homes that can take them.

With the numbers not stacked in their favor, the push is on to find loving care for these boys and girls in crisis.

One couple in Northeast Ohio hopes their family’s story will inspire others to open their hearts and their homes.

Robb Colbrunn calls it an eye-opening experience.

"Many times, we live sheltered from these realities, but once you enter this world, you're not sheltered from it," said Colbrunn.

Colbrunn and his wife, Joni, bravely jumped feet-first into foster care.

"As a stay at home mom, I was like I could totally do that," said Joni Colbrunn.

The website of waiting children in Summit County sealed the deal for Joni.

"That just tugged at my heart, because there were a lot, a lot of kids," said Colbrunn.

The couple, with five biological children ages 15 to 22 were all in from the start.

"The minute we got licensed, they were like where's the little one? Our family's approach to fostering is these kids are fully in our family, like we love on them completely," said Joni Colbrunn.

So far, the Colbrunns have welcomed six children into their home.

"I think what people maybe don't realize is the shear amount of joy that a foster child can bring you," said Joni Colbrunn.

Along with that joy, there has been an equal amount of grief.

"It's very weird to know this is the last time I'm going to read you a story at night, this is the last bottle I'll ever feed you," said Joni Colbrunn.

Joni Colbrunn said those goodbyes are the hardest part.

"I feel like there's tiny pieces of your heart with each of the kids," said Colbrunn.

Through the pain, the couple can pull out the positive.

"The fact that it is hard means we did it right," said Robb Colbrunn.

The Colbrunns are currently one of 170 licensed foster families in Summit county.

"We hold their hand through the process," said Ann Ream, Summit County Children Services.

When children services can't secure kinship caregivers like aunts, uncles, grandparents, and godparents, the agency is forced to place hundreds of boys and girls in group homes because there are just not enough foster families.

"We don't go more than a couple days. Like once a baby leaves you get a phone call maybe that night or a day later and there's a new baby, a new child," said Joni Colbrunn.

May is National Foster Family Month, and the Colbrunns hope they can be the example to encourage others to learn more about the process.

"We've had amazing case workers, super helpful, super supportive," said Joni Colbrunn.

A process that provides biological parents time to heal and turn things around so they can be reunited with their children.

"We're not intending to (be) that long-term family; we just want to provide that home and love on the kids until the point they can move on to that spot they need to go," said Robb Colbrunn.