SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) -A haunting reality in Chatham County with too many children in foster care and not enough foster parents.
The shortage is forcing these children to be placed in counties across Georgia, hundreds of miles from their homes.
Ultimately, moving these kids far away from their legal guardians lowers the chances of a successful reunion.
After becoming a foster parent with her husband 9 years ago, Lisa Ferguson has opened her home to more than 115 kids. It’s a passion she can’t keep to herself.
“I’m in the doctor’s office. I’m in the grocery store. I’m talking about wouldn’t you like to foster?" said Lisa Ferguson. "Because it has become a part of me.”
According to the Division of Family and Child Services, Ferguson is one of 38 current foster care homes in Chatham County with 475 kids in foster care. Shawn Brown with DFCS says more than half of the coastal Georgia region’s children placed in DFCS custody are moved hundreds of miles away.
“When children come into foster care just the event of coming into foster care regardless of what their life experience might have been and prior to that, it is a traumatizing event,” said Brown.
As parents work through obstacles like drug abuse or affordable housing, Brown says keeping children in their hometown is crucial for the best outcomes.
“By being able to keep children in their communities, what we would look to preserve is family relationships, friendships, education is very critical for school aged children.”
Despite the shortage being a continual national and statewide issue, there has been an increase in the number of families ready to take in children in the Coastal Empire district. In 2016, our region had 116 approved foster care homes. There are now 148.
The number of children in foster care has also increased in our area by more than 25 percent.
“The shortage that we have really hurts my heart, because we should not have,” said Ferguson. “We have too many children in foster care that should not be in foster care, so if you are willing to open up your home and your heart. Do it.”
DFCS says parents don’t have to fit a certain mold to become a foster parent.
“When they come into your home, they look to you like you are my hero but in all reality the children are the heroes, because of what they have to endure and what they have to go through.”