Number of Foster Children In Arkansas Is At All-Time High

SEBASTIAN COUNTY (KFSM) -- The number of children in foster care is at an all-time high in Arkansas and one local county has the most foster children in the entire state.

As of Aug. 8 there are 500 children in foster care just in Northwest Arkansas, but there are just over 440 foster home beds available.

The numbers are much more alarming in the River Valley where there are more than 1,000 children in foster care but only 400 foster home beds. Almost 700 of those children are in Sebastian County, which has the highest number of children in foster care in the entire state.

The Call is an organization that partners with local churches to recruit, train and provide ongoing support for foster families in our community.

"We're hearing from caseworkers everyday, struggling to find placements for kids that they don't struggle to find placements for, younger kids even," said Ann Meythaler, a coordinator for the Call. "We continue to open more homes, but kids are coming into care just as fast as we're getting homes opened."

Meythaler said becoming a foster parent through The Call starts with attending an information meeting. After the meeting interested foster parents undergo background checks, then they have to go through 30 hours of training.

"It's the same training the state provides for their homes as well," she said. "After the training there is a home study, CPR certification and paperwork. We have a volunteer on staff who helps families with that to make sure they don't have questions about paperwork."

The case then gets handed over to the Department of Children and Family Services. Meythaler has been a foster parent herself and has adopted four of the children.

She said opening her home has been the best decision her family has ever made. She said interested parents should not to get hung up on the fear of bringing children into their home and having to give them up later on.

"It's so rewarding and it's a worthy sacrifice to let these kids know they're worth attaching too, they're worth loving, they're worth settling into and worth being brokenhearted over to make sure they are safe," she said.

Meythaler said she's seen people get foster children in their homes in as little as three months after coming to one of the information meetings, but the process typically takes four to six months.

The next information meeting will be Sept. 12 at 6 p.m. at Flagstone Church of Christ in Bentonville.