Agency feeling the strain of foster care crisis

Posted at 7:50 AM, Sep 29, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-29 10:50:29-04

The foster care crisis in Arizona has local non-profits working overtime to meet the growing demand.  Right now there are nearly 18,000 kids in the state system and only about 4,600 licensed foster families.

“We have 9 that are 13 and under, so it’s busy,” one foster mother named Vicki tells ABC15. Vicki and her husband have adopted 11 children in all; eight were once in foster care. “It’s been the biggest blessing in our entire life, we would never change anything.”

Those children have forever homes but there are thousands across our state who are not so lucky.  Some are forced to sleep in group homes and overflow shelters because space is so scarce.

“I just want to go and pick them up and bring them home but obviously we can't, there's a limit to what we can do,” said Vicki.

That is where non-profits like Aid to Adoption of Special Kids, or AASK, come in. It is licensed by DES to help recruit families and facilitate adoptions.

“I’ve never seen a state so overburdened and under-resourced,” said Russ Funk, director of community engagement for AASK.

In response AASK is expanding its infrastructure to cover more ground in the east and west valleys, it is adding staff and implementing new programs to not only attract foster parents but also to keep them.

“We just need to keep getting the message out to families that don't think they could do this, that they really can,” said Funk.

Funk says more funding, more families and a close review of licensing rules for foster families could help ease the crisis.

“All we're asking people to do is to open up their minds and their hearts and explore the possibilities,” said Funk.