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Thousands of Arkansas Children Waiting for "Forever Home"

Thousands of children are waiting to be adopted in Arkansas, including many siblings who don't want to be separated. (Arkansas DCFS)
Thousands of children are waiting to be adopted in Arkansas, including many siblings who don't want to be separated. (Arkansas DCFS)
May 11, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - This is National Foster Care Month, and advocates hope to bring awareness to the issue so more children can find a permanent home.

Several nonprofit groups in Arkansas try to recruit and work with foster families. One is Project Zero, whose executive director, Christie Erwin, has been a foster parent for 19 years and has permanently adopted two children. Her group holds events to match children in the foster system with potential parents. Project Zero also has three traveling exhibits that are taken around the state with pictures and stories of kids waiting to be adopted. Erwin said that's crucial because once people see a face and not just paperwork, more children find what she calls a forever home.

"I can't tell you how many people have walked up to the Heart Gallery exhibit and been drawn to one specific child," she said. "Out of the whole exhibit, they're drawn to that one child, which is really a miracle. You know, it's such an incredible blessing."

On any given day across the nation, about a half million children are in foster care. More than 5,000 are in Arkansas, but fewer than 1,500 families can take in kids.

Laurie Currier, executive director of The Call, a faith-based group that also recruits families and then helps them work with the Arkansas Division of Children and Family Services, said too many children are waiting, and the best thing for them is to be part of a family.

"It helps to model for them what living in a family is like," she said. "The give and take that is involved, the unconditional love that families have for each other -- we really believe that that's the answer to the crisis that we have."

The Call is operating in 38 of Arkansas' counties and getting established in six others.

At one of her group's foster events last year, Erwin said, a teenage boy started playing the piano. She videotaped it and put it on Facebook.

"Over 155,000 people saw that post about him, which opens doors that weren't open before because, you know, he's kind of obsolete," she said. "He was a teenage boy that had been waiting for six years."

The mission of both groups is simple: One waiting child plus one welcoming family equals zero children waiting.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR