Foster parents desperately needed; over 400 children in foster care system in Alexandria region
There are thousands of kids in the foster care system across Louisiana.
ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - There are more than 3,400 children in the foster care system in Louisiana, and 400 of those children are right here in the Alexandria region.
Co-Founder and Executive Director of “Fostering Community,” an Alexandria non-profit says there are ways you can help.
“There’s a desperate need for more foster families here in Central Louisiana, families that are able to be a temporary home for children who need a safe, stable environment,” said Andria Fontenot.
There aren’t enough foster homes here for the children entering care, and the pandemic has only made the situation worse.
“The pandemic has exacerbated mental health and substance abuse issues, and increased the need for community resources and support,” said Fontenot.
Unfortunately, Rapides Parish leads the way when it comes to child abuse and neglect.
“Last year, Rapides Parish had the highest number of child abuse and neglect cases across the state,” said Fontenot.
And the problem isn’t going away.
“There are a large amount of children being abused and neglected in Central Louisiana. If I had all the answers and knew how to fix it all, I would, but it’s not going to be one simple solution, it’s going to take a lot of community resources and support to be able to help our children.”
‘Fostering Community,’ the local non-profit works directly with the Department of Children and Family Services.
“When DCFS becomes involved and they realize the child needs to enter foster care, they’re then placed with a foster family and we come alongside that foster family to provide support and resources,” said Fontenot.
The non-profit was created to be a bridge between the people in the community who want to meet the needs of children in foster care and the actual foster care system.
“A lot of kids when they enter care, this is their first stop for either their case worker or their foster parent. They’ll come here and get first-night supplies and things from the foster care closet.”
The non-profit provides initiatives like ‘My Community Cares,’ a program aimed at preventing new children from entering into the system.
“The mission is to prevent the entry of children into foster care by connecting Louisiana’s most vulnerable families to the services and support they need to be safe, stable and self-sufficient,” said Fontenot.
To provide support to not only children, but also their foster families and birth families.
“Usually people who have children in foster care haven’t had a great support system. They’ll have drug abuse issues or mental health issues, and they just can’t get back on their feet without support,” said Fontenot.
Fontenot, who is a foster parent herself, has raised children ages eight months all the way to 21 years of age.
“Being a foster family has definitely changed our family’s dynamics and our family’s values, and the kids that have come into our home have added so much love.”
If being a foster parent isn’t for you, Fontenot said there are plenty of other ways you can help children in the foster care system, including volunteering at the non-profit.
“Everyone can do something to impact children in foster care, whether that’s volunteering at the foster care closet or becoming a foster parent, adopting from foster care, volunteering as a CASA advocate.”
Right now, there are a total of 200 foster care families in the system in the eight-parish area the non-profit serves, and about 50 volunteers.
At Monday night’s ‘State of the State’ address, Governor John Bel Edwards announced new legislation aimed at creating a foster youth bill of rights.
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