The nationwide need for foster care and adoptive parents is real and continues to rise every day. There has always been a need for families in the foster care system, but that need has grown incredibly in the recent years due to the opioid epidemic. Foster care in North Carolina is changing for the better.

Agencies across the country are trying to recruit more foster care families, but North Carolina is in particular need of foster families. It is reported that “between 2001 and 2016, the number of people who aged out of the system increased 70 percent, rising to the highest rate since the Jordan Institute for Families began collecting data in mid-2000.”

In most states, foster youth age out of the system at age 18 and unfortunately, no longer have a support system or family for guidance. Statistics show that these youth have a higher percentage of homelessness, unplanned pregnancy, incarceration, and a lower percentage of obtaining a high school degree or attending college.

Foster Care in North Carolina

North Carolina made a positive change and established the Foster Care 18 to 21 initiative. This initiative allows youth to stay in the foster care system until they are 21 and not age out at 18. However, there are conditions that must be met by the youth; they must be attending school or working unless they have a disability. As Brian Maness, president of the Children’s Home Society of North Carolina said, “it’s a step in the right direction. But we can’t give up on the need for these children to find forever families.”

There are many families who deserve recognition such as the Guerra family. Stacey and Carlos Guerra live in North Carolina, have two biological children, and decided to become a foster family. They now have two older foster children in their family and are pursuing their adoption. They are hoping many others will step up and offer their home and family to the many children and youth in need. As Stacey says, “Yes, children might have issues or what you might call baggage, but who doesn’t. Everyone still needs love.”