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Alaska sees drop in foster care homes for children as demand persists

Alaska sees drop in foster care homes for children as demand persists
Updated: Mar. 7, 2022 at 8:00 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska joins other states in the Lower 48 in seeing a decrease in foster care families, according to the Office of Children’s Services.

In 2017, the state reported 1,351 non-specific foster homes. These are foster homes that take in children that they are not related to. By 2021, that number had dropped down to 1,026, a 24% decrease from 2017.

Barbara Cosolito, the social service program officer for the Resource Family Unit Social Service Program, said that the pandemic brought new challenges and responsibilities to foster parents.

“When children were out of school, our foster parents then had to take on the responsibility of handling school within their homes,” Cosolito said.

In addition, Cosolito said that the pandemic brought the fear of a potential increase of being exposed to COVID-19.

“Foster parents have also experienced the risk of COVID being brought into their home when a foster child is placed in their home,” Cosolito said.

The need for foster care homes in the state remains prevalent. Each month, according to the Department of Health and Social Services, Alaska cares for approximately 3,000 foster youth. Now, Cosolito said, the state is struggling to find housing placements for children. On rare occasions, Cosolito said, this is resulting in children having to sleep in offices.

“Some foster youth at times might have to spend a short time in an office overnight,” Cosolito said. “In our OCS offices, we have playrooms. We have rooms where we could set up for a child to sleep during the night if need be.”

Currently, OCS is working on increasing recruitment for foster care families, in addition to reaching out to past foster care families and asking them to renew their licenses. Within the last month, OCS said they are reporting an increase in applications.

Those interested in becoming foster parents can reach out to their local OCS for details. There is no income requirement. Prospective parents must be at least 24 years old and pass the department’s home and background check.

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