JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - An Annie E. Casey Foundation report found too many American foster children are living in group homes or institutions instead of with families.
About 14 percent of children in the U.S. are going to bed without the care and comfort of a family, and that number is even higher in Arkansas at almost 20 percent.
The report mostly blames a major foster family shortage.
"There is a need everywhere," said Nicole Potts, a recruitment coordinator for Christians 4 Kids in Jonesboro. "There is not a county here in Arkansas that is fine. Everyone needs help."
Potts encourages families to step up because foster kids really do best in that setting.
"They have a model of what it looks like for a mom to love a dad and a dad to love a mom and appropriate sibling interaction," Potts said. "Unfortunately in a lot of their homes, that hasn't been the case. When a child is put in a loving home where they're treasured and they get the medical attention they need, all the help they need, they feel truly loved. Love is the number one thing. You love on those babies and you love them like they're yours. We have families say, 'Oh, I would love to do this but I would get so attached.' They need you to be so attached! They need that."
According to the report, federal law requires foster children live with families whenever possible, but because of the shortage, one in seven foster children live in shelters.
Potts said some foster children need to live in facilities, like a residential treatment center, at first due to neglect and abuse in their biological family's home.
However, the report said 40 percent of the children in group placements have no documented behavioral or medical need that would warrant placement in such a restrictive setting.
"With the shelters, a lot of times there's not a mom or dad option and really that's what they need," Potts said. "Even after several weeks with foster families, I've seen kids improve so much, like a makeover inside and out. They look so healthy, they're happy, they're glowing. There's nothing like it."
If you would like more information about becoming a foster or adoptive parent or would like to donate to Christians 4 Kids, call Potts at 870- 930- 6372 or like the organization's Facebook page.