Missoula Foster Kids Seeking Homes, But Few Can Be Found
The number of children in the Montana Foster Care System has skyrocketed over 2,200 and is currently, as of February, 2015, higher than it has been for over 15 years.
Youth Dynamics Family Development Coordinator Katie Gerten works to find homes for foster kids in Missoula and says the need for homes far outpaces the availability. Another difficulty is the ages of the kids in need. It is notoriously hard to find homes for children over ten, and they make up about half of the Montana foster child population.
"We don't even have close to half the number of homes to give a home to all of those children," Gerten said. "Because of that, siblings are broken up and placed in different homes. Kids end up in shelters in less than ideal placements. It's not uncommon for a child to move placements several times in the course of a year, just because they are placed in a less than ideal placement because there are not enough homes."
Gerten says that a lack of home availability has made it difficult for children to find homes in the areas where they are from and that they are sometimes forced to be uprooted from their friends and the communities they grew up in.
"I have turned down at least two dozen placements here in Missoula, because I don't have a place to put them," Gerten said. "I have put out referrals to all of our different offices all across the state and they don't have homes either. For instance, when I was up in Kalispell, there was a child from Glendive that had to be placed up with me, in Kalispell, because there just weren't enough homes."
Those interested in opening their home up to a foster child can call Gerten at the Youth Dynamics office at 728-9672. Gerten says the background checks, training and paperwork for new foster homes usually takes about two months.