Need for more foster care parents is urgent in SLO County, says Department of Social Services
Family breakdowns during the pandemic have increased the need for foster care to help vulnerable children, but according to San Luis Obispo County, there are simply not enough foster homes to keep up with the demand — and now, the county is calling for people to help.
At any given time, there are around 350 youth in the foster care system in SLO County, according to the Department of Social Services.
But with kids returning to school, Roxi Selck, manager of child welfare at DSS, said they are anticipating a sharp increase in children entering the foster care system.
“We are really in desperate need," Selck said. "Our youth in our community, we really need people to step up and support them.”
Selck said they need long-term foster care homes, but also need people who can offer their homes during emergency situations.
Sometimes the demand exceeds their capacity, and kids are transferred to homes outside the area.
“Without those shelter homes, it leaves us scattering and scrambling around looking for places for them to be. It’s unsettling for them," Selck said.
A home with people who care is something these children desperately need, Selck said.
“We are not any different than any other kid, except for the fact that our parents weren’t ready,” said 14-year-old Mali.
Mali ended up in the foster care system when she was just born. Her mother tested positive for drugs in her system, and Mali ended up in the NICU and then into emergency foster care.
Mali has since been adopted.
“I don’t try to constantly think about the fact that I'm not with my birth family," Mali said. "Because I have a family. I have people and parents that are here for me.”
Mary Lud Baldwin is Mali's adoptive mother. Baldwin has also been a foster parent since 1979. If you see her, she usually has a baby attached to her, since she takes in infants from the NICU who have been exposed to drugs or alcohol.
She said seeing the vulnerable babies she helps as infants thrive later in life is the ultimate reward.
“I see a baby emerge that eventually looks like all the other babies," Baldwin said. "And that's what keeps me going.”
Selck said for people interested or just curious about becoming a foster care provider to call 805-781-1705 to speak with someone from the Department of Social Services’ foster care program.
“Foster kids are no different than any other child," Selk said. " They’ve just suffered different trauma. So really anyone who has space in their hearts and homes to care for them, is able to apply.”