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After Years on Decline, Slight Increase in ND Foster Kids

PHOTO: With the influx of people for the oil boom, North Dakota is seeing a slight increase in the number of kids in foster care. CREDIT: James Stewart
PHOTO: With the influx of people for the oil boom, North Dakota is seeing a slight increase in the number of kids in foster care. CREDIT: James Stewart
December 24, 2013

BISMARCK, N.D. – After five straight years of decline, the number of children in foster care in the state is starting to trend upwards slightly.

Dean Sturn, foster care administrator for the North Dakota Department of Human Services, says the uptick is due to the influx of families with the oil boom.

Still, Sturn says the biggest issue is finding homes for older children.

"A lot of times when people decide they want to be foster parents, they have this vision of who they're going to foster,” he says. “And a lot of times they picture in their minds the babies up to age 4 or 5, so we have a more difficult time finding forever homes for older kids."

Sturn says at any given time, there are about 1,100 children in foster care in North Dakota.

With that lack of foster families for the older children, they are more apt to face negative life events as they age out of the system, such as unplanned pregnancies or unemployment.

But Sturn says there are a number of efforts to help change that, including the national Foster Care Independence Act, which helps with life skills normally shared by parents.

"What is their understanding of how to secure housing?” he says. “How to secure mental health? How to secure medical health? How do you go about getting a loan for a car? So just those everyday things that we would think that our parents all taught us."

Sturn says North Dakota is also part of the national program that allows teens to voluntarily stay in the foster care system and receive needed support until they're 21 years old.


John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND