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Number of kids in foster care on decline

The number of children placed into foster care each year in Dallas County has decreased by more than half in the last decade, but there is still a need for foster homes.

According to Andrea Dudley, a social service supervisor with the Department of Human Resources, the number of foster children in Dallas County is down from around 90 to 50.

“We’ve achieved permanency through safely reunifying them with family and a lot of our foster parents have adopted children from foster care,” she said.

The number of foster homes has also decreased, going from 35 down to just 21.

“Unfortunately, we’ve had some to pass away, we’ve had some to retire, we’ve had some to relocate, and then we have had some that once they’ve completed their family with their adoption, then they just decided they were good,” Dudley said.

Linda Cook, who became a foster parent more than 20 years ago, knows firsthand how much of a difference opening up a home to a child can make.

“Just like you get joy from your own children, you can get joy from them. I’m not saying everything is peaches and cream, just like it’s not with your own children,” Cook said. “But you get through the bad and you keep sticking in there and hanging in there.”

Cook said it is a lot of hard work, but being a foster parent is all worth it.

“I’m just an ordinary person doing what I do, which is love kids and try to help them any way that I can,” she said. “It makes me feel good, not that I want a pat on the back or deserve a pat on the back, but hey, that’s my kid, and I’m proud of them.”

While all of her foster kids are grown and have children of their own, Cook said the relationships she has built would last a lifetime.

Dudley said the department is always looking for families to foster children. The circumstances differ for children. Some may have parents that have been arrested, or they may come from a dangerous living situation.

“We would prefer to work with children in their own homes and provide the services to the mother if we can do that safely. If we cannot, then that’s when we take the step to do foster care,” Dudley said.

The areas where they have difficulty placing children are large sibling groups, children with medical issues and teenagers, who she said sometimes get a bad reputation.

“Just because the teenage years you’ve got the hormones and all that so people are a little fearful of taking teenagers,” she said. “However, some of my teens I had when I was a caseworker, they were very mannerable, respectful children, so it can be a good experience fostering teens as well.”

Without homes in Dallas County, children have to be sent to other cities and counties.

“When we have children come into foster care, and we may not have an exact placement or match for them here, then we’ve got to place them out of county,” she said. “Therefore, they don’t get to see their siblings if they are separated, they don’t get to see old friends at school.”

Dudley said the department is just looking for everyday people that want to give a child a home.

“Your ordinary can be a child’s extraordinary. We’re not looking for people with mansions,” she said. “We’re looking for a good, stable, loving home that wants to make a difference in the life of a child. “

There are currently five families going through the 30-hour training course required to become a foster parent, and Dudley encourages anyone interested in fostering children to contact the department at (334) 874-1472.