ALABAMA (WHNT) — North Alabama foster kids need homes, and local programs are looking for families to help out.

“If we do the math, we know there aren’t enough foster homes for all the children,” said Health Connect America Director of Therapeutic Foster Care Ellen Weatherford.

More than 5,800 kids are currently in foster care in Alabama, but only about 2,300 foster families are available to host them. When foster homes aren’t available, foster children have to be placed further away from their biological families.

“We’re having to go outside of the county, so if a child from Madison County needs a home, they may go to Limestone County,” Weatherford said.

Weatherford said when children are further from home, it becomes more difficult to later reunite them with their families.

“The goal of foster care is to reunify, so if you foster, you always want to think foster to foster because ultimately return home,” Weatherford said.

Teenagers have been especially impacted by the shortage. Weatherford said many foster families are prepared to host younger kids, but teenagers also need the support.

“You could be the extra person in their life that talks about trade school or college or making sure they complete high school,” Weatherford said. “Making sure they complete their education, so they have that stability for their future.”

Weatherford said becoming a foster parent is a possibility for many people. The process includes background checks and training, but Weatherford said the most important requirement is wanting to help children.

In order to become a foster parent you must:

  • Be 25 years or older
  • Own or rent your home
  • Be able to meet financial obligations consistently
  • Pass a criminal history check
  • Complete training provided for free through Health Connect America

You do not need to be married to become a foster parent. Health Connect America offers support for foster parents including 24-hour emergency services, in-home and outpatient psychiatric services, and coordination of medical services when necessary.

If you are interested in applying to become a foster parent, click here.