Agencies stepping up efforts to recruit foster families

ROANOKE (WSLS 10) - Across Virginia, there is a growing need for foster families to take care of children. Currently, in the city of Roanoke, there are 297 children in foster care. In Roanoke County, there are about 90 kids in foster care.

Officials said the need for foster homes outweighs the number of registered families. Staff are stepping up their recruitment efforts to find more foster homes.

Jen and Josh Yerton have a full house. In addition to their two biological kids, the Roanoke County couple has two more children they adopted through the foster care program.

"We starting talking about adoption and if our family is full right now," said Josh Yerton. "Then we started talking about foster care. It was such a compelling thing to pursue."

Staff with Roanoke County Social Services said there is a need for more families to foster.

Ben Jones, a Roanoke County Family Services Supervisor, said after a peak in the summer, the number of children in foster care right now is lower than years past; however, overall the need for foster homes continues to grow with the rise of drug addiction.

"My belief is that the opioid crisis in this area is real. We would have far fewer kids in foster case if it wasn't for opioids," said Jones.

With more children in the system than registered foster care providers, staff have had to turn to surrounding areas and therapeutic treatment care partners for support explained Jones. In some cases, he said it costs the agency roughly $5,000 more per child per year to use therapeutic treatment care instead of foster homes. In an effort to better utilize money and resources, the agency has increased efforts to recruit more foster families.

"You may have seen us on social media and print media. We actually asked the county to allow us to look for a marketing and recruitment professional to augment our foster care and coordinator position," Jones said. "To identify where the foster parents we use have come from, where we can find more families like the ones we have and reach out to families we never met before.

By sharing their story, the Yerton's hope to see other families foster.

"You get a chance to invest in and change a kid's life forever and that's a big story. And it's worth doing" said Yerton.

In February, Roanoke County will host an orientation for families interested in becoming foster homes.