BOZEMAN - As drug and alcohol addiction continues to plague tens of thousands in the Treasure State, children are going without homes as the foster care system reaches a breaking point. There are 4000 children in foster care throughout the state of Montana, and that number is growing.
"Basically, we kind of have a foster care crisis in Montana," says Lily Hawks, Family Development Coordinator at nonprofit Youth Dynamics. "The biggest reason kids are going into foster care is largely due to the drug and alcohol use, which causes abuse and neglect."
Youth Dynamics treats and places at-risk kids across the state into foster homes. Hawks says the organization only has six foster families currently licensed in Gallatin County.
"We just don't have the families to fill that need for kids who are in need of a family," says Hawks.
Although Youth Dynamics is one of a handful of foster care operations in Montana, those numbers don't vary much across other agencies.
For James and Kathy Rolin, already parents of three kids below the age of 10, the decision to foster came suddenly.
"Two years ago, we found out how few families were certified foster families in Gallatin County," says Kathy, who had always wanted to be a foster parent. "I think when I read it, it was like two or three."
The couple is now one of only a few licensed foster families in the county, and they were recently placed with their first foster child.
"Our idea of family hasn't really changed," says James. "The only difference is that we now have someone else in our house who's not biologically related. But they're still a human and they still need love."
"It feels like this child has always been here, in a way," adds Kathy.
Foster care in Montana is not as restrictive as other states, and the right person can become a licensed foster parent in as little as two months.
"They're looking for a stable person or couple that can help provide, and there's a lot of resources," explains Kathy. "They even help pay for childcare and stuff."
"There's really no reason not to," adds her husband.
Yeah, I mean if you have the room in your heart and the room in your house, you should do it."
To learn more about the requirements for being a foster parent, click here.
If you’re interested in becoming a foster parent, you can contact Lily Hawks at 548-6606 or email@example.com. You can also stop by a Youth Dynamics (or other foster care organization) office. To fill out a care inquiry, go to www.youthdynamics.org.