New closet opens to help foster families

DCFS also dealing with a shortage of foster parents
Area churches are coming together to help foster families.
Published: Mar. 29, 2023 at 10:23 AM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONROE, La. (KNOE) - Church congregations are coming together to help foster families.

There’s a shortage of foster parents right now in the state, and we’re feeling the impacts in Northeast Louisiana. In this region, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) said (as of March 9, 2023) we have 414 children in foster care but only 179 foster families. And they say 58 of those families are child-specific, meaning they can only foster a particular child or children.

“So we do have a large shortage even in the Monroe region we have over 400 children in foster care and we have less than 200 foster families willing to take those kids in and so if you do the math, foster families have more than one or two foster children,” says Margie Nielsen, a Louisiana Foster Care Support Organization Ambassador.

Nielsen says one of the reasons we’re seeing such a shortage is due to the pandemic.

“From 2019 to 2020 we saw a reduction of children entering care, a reduction of over 500 children....because they weren’t attending school, they weren’t going to the doctor, they weren’t in the public eye so therefore, quite certainly, reports declined significantly. But last year in 2022 we saw over 800 more children entering foster care. We lost numerous homes throughout COVID for various reasons and we have not been able to recruit and maintain enough homes to meet the demand,” says Beth Green, State Child Welfare Manager over Home Development, Therapeutic Foster Care, and Community Partnerships at DCFS.

Green says foster families are volunteers but they do get a board payment of $425 to $550 a month depending on the age of the child, along with a medical ID for services.

To help ease the burden, churches are coming together to create clothing closets.

Lauren Wilhite and Sarah Nelson are both foster moms and said when they asked their pastor at the Gathering Church in West Monroe about the idea, it was a resounding yes. It’s now called the Mission 1:27 Foster Closet. Right now, they’re open every first Monday of the month from 10 am - 12 pm or by appointment through their Facebook page.

“They’re very surprised that it looks like this because it was just an old storage closet and they’re surprised by all the things we have,” explains Wilhite.

“It’s more than just about the things that we have in the closet, it is about the support system and us being able to love on each other cause it does take an army,” says Nelson.

And, so far, they say most of the items in the closet have been donated by members of the congregation.

“When we fostered, it was more than 10 years ago and at that point, I did not even know another foster family, there were no foster parent organizations anywhere, no meetings, no closets, we didn’t have any services,” explains Nielsen.

Even if you can’t foster, she says there are things you can do to help.

“The little things in a foster family are really really big things, every minute counts, every penny counts, every activity counts because they are so short on time and resources so even if you’re just supplying a meal then that gives 45 minutes of that cooking time that foster mom or dad could spend on homework with their children.”

And donating items is always appreciated.

“Beds are always needed because to place a child, there has to be a bed for them to sleep in and those go so quick,” says Wilhite.

And support is vital.

“The more people that can love on us and love on them and love on us while we’re going through this, cause sometimes it’s hard and sometimes it’s easy and we just need people to rally around us during the good and the bad times,” says Wilhite.

You can visit DCFS’ website for information on becoming a foster parent, call the Monroe Region DCFS office at (318) 362-5417, or email MonRegHDU.DCFS@LA.GOV.

If you’re interested in adopting, they say you can go through the DCFS adoption unit and then that case will go through the court system.