In the state of Alabama, more than 6,000 children are in foster care.
Area officials are leading an effort to help these kids find permanent and loving homes.
May is Foster Care Awareness Month.
There are more than 460,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States, just waiting to be reunited with their families or adopted.
Officials say being a foster parent is a great way help keep families together.
“Being adopted into a family, having a home is what every child wants,”
Dothan Mayor Mike Schmitz should know.
Once an orphan, Schmitz was adopted as a child.
“I haven't really had a chance, as a child, to tell a lot of folks that helped me ‘thank you’ and now it’s my turn to do that,” said Mayor Schmitz.
But before they're adopted, some children need foster care.
“We have 29 foster homes in our county, and we have 157 children in our custody,” said Tina Green with the Alabama Department Human Resources.
“There is an absolute shortage of foster parents,” said Mayor Schmitz.
Here are some qualifications you must meet before becoming a foster parent:
--You must be at least 19 years of age.
--All adults in the home will undergo a thorough background check, including criminal history.
--You must provide a safe, comfortable atmosphere for the child.
“Children thrive on stability and they thrive on being in a home were there is not chaos, and our foster homes can provide that for these children,” said Green.
Also, foster care applicants must complete a 30-hour preparation course.
They can care for up to six children and families receive a payment each month for room and board.
“It ranges from approximately $410 (per child) for children ages 0-2 and then it goes up,” added Green.
Schmitz says being a foster parent isn't easy, but it's definitely worthwhile.
“When you can take a child and see them blossom as life goes on out of difficult situations it's a great thing,” said Mayor Schmitz.
“I think it is very challenging, but I think it is also very rewarding,” said Green.
Most children are placed temporarily in foster care due to parental abuse or neglect.
Last year in 2009, 676 children in Alabama were adopted through the department of human resources; that's more than ever before.
The ultimate goal of the foster care program is to keep families together and eventually reunite children with their biological parents or relatives.
If you're interested in becoming a foster parent please call 1-866-4AL-KIDS.