Conditions for kids awaiting foster homes have made headlines over the last week and have also shined a light on the need for foster families.
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Agencies that help guide families through the process say they're always looking for more homes.
Cristina and Dylan Payne moved to California from Georgia during the pandemic with their two young children, Luke and Mia.
TONIGHT AT 6: This local family says they didn’t know anything about fostering a child until just a few months ago. Now, they have a teenager in their home. I’ll have their story and details on how to become a foster parent. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/moBNyY1H9k— Jessica Harrington (@JessicaABC30) October 21, 2021
Their journey to becoming foster parents started while Cristina, a high school teacher, was talking to her students.
"I met a child, a teen in particular, and I heard her story about foster care. There were several of my students who were in foster programs," Cristina said.
She said it was through those conversations she learned about the need for foster families and felt a special connection to one teen girl who needed a home.
So, she approached the idea of becoming a foster family with Dylan.
"At the time, I just felt like we just had too much going on, new careers and everything going on, but she fell in love -- particularly -- with a particular teenager," Dylan said.
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After reaching out for more information and going through the proper steps, the teen they wanted was placed with them.
"We expected a lot of challenges, and I think we were both pleasantly surprised with how smooth things went," said Cristina
The Payne's became an approved foster family, called a "Resource Family" in California, through Transitions Children's Services.
It's one of several foster family agencies in Central California.
Brian Van Anne is the CEO of Transitions Children's Services, he said these agencies get requests from counties to find a good placement when a child is in need of a home.
"We always need resource families. There's never going to be enough resource families," Van Anne said.
The agency social workers work to match kids with the families they work with.
He said it's most challenging to try to find a family willing and available to take in teenagers.
"There's not a lot of families out there that are willing to give that a go, so there's always a need for families, specifically for teens," said Van Anne.
When a family reaches out with interest, a recruiter provides the information and then helps them through training to get approved.
The agency said families seeking approval to become a foster home should have an affinity for children, room in their home and family and be willing to commit.
They also have to pass a background check, a home inspection, go through training and have a vehicle and driver's license.
But officials say foster families don't have to be superheroes.
"We want average, everyday families who just want to be a champion for a child," said Deborah Hough, a recruiter and trainer with Transitions Children's Services.
Once a family is approved and a child is placed with them, there are extra commitments beyond what many parents are used to.
There could be court dates, visitations, medical appointments, and more the child must attend.
"Of course we want our kids involved in all the activities that every day children get to be involved in, so maybe you're going to be incorporating soccer, cheerleading and who knows what," said Hough.
The entire process can take between two to six months to become approved.
The Paynes said their experience has been great and would recommend other families, at least, seek out information about possibly becoming a foster family.
"You don't have to be a millionaire, you don't have a to be a perfect, solid family, you just have to care," Cristina Payne said.
You don't have to be a married couple to become a foster parent, but officials said there are a few more requirements for solo parents, to ensure the child has proper care.
Asking for information about becoming a foster parent doesn't require you to follow through with becoming one and parents have the power to decide how many children they can house, and if a child is the best fit for their family.
Here are some of the family resource agencies in the Central Valley:
Transitions Children's Services
Koinonia Foster Homes
Creative Alternatives, Inc.
KYJO Foster Family Agency
Karing 4 Kids - Foster Family Agency, Inc.
Golden State Family Services