Growing need for foster care highlights child custody issues

May is Nation Foster Care Month and with that in mind, it's important to remember that there are thousands of Arizona kids looking for permanent homes. It's also time to recognize the scores of people who dedicate themselves to working with those kids and trying to find suitable families for them. La Paloma Family Services is a Tucson-based organization that does just that. La Paloma's executive director says that there are roughly 700 foster homes in Pima County and approximately 3,400 children currently in the foster care system.

Obviously, the demand for more foster care homes is high, and the effort to recruit more foster care parents is a year-round task, according to La Paloma's director. She says that the problem is only getting worse and points to a recent state budget cut of 75 percent in prevention dollars as contributing to an increase of the numbers of children being removed from their homes. The director says that happens when parents are no longer able to provide a safe environment for their kids. She says there are now about 2,000 children currently living in group homes that would do much better if placed in a family setting.

Thankfully, La Paloma hosts monthly meetings in Pima County designed to orient would-be parents about the requirements to become a foster care parent, and they are not as difficult as you may think. According to the director, age really doesn't matter as long as you are at least 21-year-old and have love in your heart for children. You can learn more about La Paloma and find out when they are holding their next monthly meeting at www.lapalomakids.org.

In a way, grandparents are kind of like nature's own form of foster parents. Many times, grandparents are the steady rock in the lives of their grandkids when their own children occasionally lose their way in life due to substance abuse and other problems with the law. Perhaps you are a grandparent of a child who is likely headed to the foster care system for one reason or another. The law provides ways for you to seek legal child custody of your grandchildren under certain circumstances.

Source: Fox 11 Tuscon News Now, "Increasing need for foster parents in Southern Arizona" Maria Hechanova, May. 12, 2014

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