ABC15 News special report: Critical need for foster care across the state
There is a critical need in South Carolina for foster families.
Tiny hands, tiny feet and so much love.
We can't show you the faces of these foster children, but you can see their love reflected in the faces of their families.
"That's such a pretty smile," said Jennifer Gray to the little baby, one of five sisters in the house.
"The running through the house is a sound that I love," said Gray. "The crashing in the other room, as long as nobody's screaming behind it, is a sound that I enjoy because I know they're having fun and being kids."
But, these moments they share wouldn't be possible without the decision to try.
"I decided in 2015 I was ready to do this, and I wasn't going to stop until I was done," said Gray.
Jennifer Gray was licensed to be a foster parent on August 6, 2015.
On August 7th, Jennifer and her three biological daughters welcomed their first foster child into their home.
"It's just been a crazy journey," said Gray. "We've learned so much about love and loving without boundaries. It's what we do."
It's also what Aundrea Rue does.
Rue is on her fifth foster child.
"I really enjoy knowing that I'm helping a child have a soft place to land when they come out of a hard situation," said Rue.
The Stachowiak's jumped into foster care two years ago. They now have three mouths to feed.
"At first we did one," said Jeanette Stachowiak. "They said, well if you ever want another let us know, and I said, 'Yeah, put me down for two.' And then two became three."
There are thousands of children across the state who need homes, and the number of foster families doesn't even come close.
As of May 1, 2016, there were 2,826 children in South Carolina in need of regular foster care. There are 1,370 foster homes.
That means we need more than 1,400 more foster families, and that's minimum.
"We really need options," said Kaci Wingate.
Wingate is with the South Carolina Department of Social Services. She places children in foster homes.
"We spend an enormous amount of time looking for families willing and capable to take the children into their homes to take care of them," said Wingate.
Many children have to be moved out of their county, away from their schools and away from everyone they know.
The McKnight's know how important it is. They've been fostering for 30 years.
"Just knowing," said Deborah McKnight, "that you can give them hope of knowing that things can get better."
Better with love and moments to cherish, even when things aren't so happy.
Foster placement is temporary.
"As soon as one left," said Gray, "we cried and carried on and squalled, and this one right here said 'Mommy, when's the next baby going to need us?'"
There's always a need and often a dire need.
"I wish people would really, truly consider being foster parents to try to help some of these kids and get them back on the right track," said James McKnight.
"If a child showed up at your door hungry and cold, would you help them?" Asked Stachowiak. "Most people would, and that's what foster care is."
These four families are hoping to serve as inspiration for others to consider opening their homes and their hearts,
In our region, 279 additional foster homes are needed right now.
There are five major components to getting a foster care license:
1. Criminal background checks.
2. Medical reports
3. Financial stability
4. Home inspections
For more information about foster care visit these websites:
Other ways to help include donating to non-profit organizations such as Fostering Hope in Conway and Foster Care Clothing Closet in Florence.
Governor Nikki Haley announced a foster care recruitment campaign in March.
There is an immediate need of more than 700 foster homes in our region.