OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — In 2010, Kara Jordan saw a need in her community. While her friends and peers were marrying and having children, Jordan said she was single and not necessarily in a position to have a biological child yet.
“There was a significant need for foster homes,” Jordan said. “I thought, well I don’t have babies in the house and I could probably provide a safe space.”
Since 2010, the number of foster children that went through the First Judicial Circuit saw an 86% increase, according to data from the FamiliesFirst Network. The FamiliesFirst Network is responsible for all foster care-related case work in Circuit One, which includes the court systems in Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties.
Chris Root, director of clinical and placement services for FamiliesFirst Network, said this increase was due to two things: the uptick in drug use in the area and COVID-19.
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, domestic violence has risen globally; the United Nations referred to it as a shadow pandemic. With kids, domestic violence cases are often observed in schools. But with virtual learning and quarantine restrictions, Root said it’s been harder to monitor.
“Removals actually went down from the normal numbers,” Root said. “Because they weren’t being seen in schools, they weren’t being seen in the community, people weren’t witnessing the impact of that and so the reports were less.”
“So actually as COVID subsides and more kids are going back into schools, those numbers have been creeping up again,” Root added. “That’s what we would expect to see, is that removals will start to increase as the severity and restrictions of COVID decrease.”
And already, the number of foster children in need has outgrown the available resources.
“So we’ve got about 547 kids needing foster care placement and we’ve got about 424 foster home beds,” Root said. “So that means that there’s a gap of about 123 beds to help meet those needs.”
Since her foster parent journey began, Jordan said she has adopted one local foster child, had two biological children and adopted one child from China. She said she has also fostered numerous long-term placement foster children.
She added that while there are great challenges that come with being foster parent, there even great joys.
“So, I think one of the joys of this is seeing the light come on in a child’s eyes when they are finally able to trust a caregiver,” Jordan said. “I think one of the other large joys is seeing a healthy family reunited.”
She added that one of the largest challenges is dealing with the legal process of fostering.
To learn more about this process and foster care and parenting in general, visit:
- FamiliesFirst Network for Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton,
- Northwest Florida Health Network for Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson and Washington, or
- Florida FAPA.