Foster parent recruiters say their job is getting more challenging

MEDFORD -- In Jackson County alone, there are more than 400 children in foster care, and that number is growing.

Penny Esser is a social service specialist with the Department of Human Services. She said in her 20-plus years with the department, the demand for foster homes continues to rise.

"As soon as we're able to certify a new foster parent they get a placement. So then they're not available and it's like a never ending story. So we're looking to certify people and have enough that we can make really good matches," Esser said.

The recruiter said this continuous cycle has led to a critical shortage, and foster children sometimes don't have a place to stay.

"Unfortunately because we don't have homes that on occasion we've had children stay the night in a hotel with case workers. That's not a good place for kids, they need to be in a home," Esser said.

At DHS, the recruiter said safety is the ultimate goal, which requires working overtime to provide families. Esser promotes in schools and libraries, as well as through meetings and on Facebook.

"If we don't have foster homes, then we can't keep the children safe and in a family setting which is the best for those children," she said.

Once DHS is able to take children out of unsafe homes and find them a new place to stay, the department often sees children change a family history of substance abuse.

"They're teaching them a new way, and the parents too sometimes. A new way of doing things that's better for everybody. And I think that ultimately affects our whole society," Esser said.

Almost 70 percent of foster children are taken out of homes because of a parent's drug or alcohol addiction.

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