Foster parents needed in Manatee, Sarasota counties

- At the Safe Children Coalition, Brena Slater and others work tirelessly to come up with a solution.

"It's been rough. It's been horrible to see," she said.

Just four years ago her agency saw 900 children come through the foster care system. Today that number has nearly doubled at 1,600.

"Our normal removal rate was about 30 children a month, then it went to about 50-60 children a month and then we had several months where we had over 100 children," she said.

The heroin and opioid crisis is the main reason why.

"One week we had four parents whose kids we had in custody. It was in 5 days 4 parents actually overdosed and die," she said.

Foster parents are desperately needed.

Manatee and Sarasota counties double the state average of children pulled from drug addicted homes.

With only 197 foster homes, several community foundations including the Manatee Community Foundation and Barancik Foundation is working with Slater to recruit 100 new foster families in Manatee County within the next year.

Slater is looking for foster families like Kate and Elizabeth Dumaugh.

"We saw a huge opportunity to not only give back to children in our community but also to help parents and come alongside and support them," said Kate. 

Together Kate and Elizabeth have fostered 9 children. Seven have been reunited with their families, they adopted two.

"The children themselves are just a joy. We are still in touch with all the families that we foster," said Elizabeth. 

At times it can be a hard role.

"A lot of what we see is they are very independent because they've had to do a lot for themselves," she said.

But it's a role that comes with a great reward in knowing they are making a difference.

"Every single day when I wake up and there is a kiddo in the world who needs a home, I know that I am making a change. This is what I can do," said Kate.

For more information on how to become a foster parent, visit https://www.sarasotaymca.org/safechildrencoalition/

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