July 22, 2024 2:30 am
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Local News

Rural Nevada Seeks More Foster Parents Amid Shortage


by Camalot Todd, Nevada Current

Over the last 5 years, the total number of licensed foster homes in Nevada has decreased by 42%, from 2054 in 2018 to 1,184 in 2022, according to data from the Who Cares project which tracks the number of foster homes nationwide. 

But while the number of licensed foster homes has decreased dramatically, the number of children in care has not — 4,712 children were in foster care in 2018 and 4,111 children were in foster care in 2022, according to the data. 

The Nevada Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is working to recruit more foster parents in rural areas through an eight-week-long online training session starting July 11. 

“Rural foster parents play an important role in providing safety and stability in a child’s life,” said Kevin Quint, Clinical Program Manager with DCFS in a statement announcing the program.

A shortage of licensed foster care homes is felt everywhere in the state, but it can be particularly challenging for the 400-450 children who are in foster care in rural Nevada — which had 220 licensed fosters homes before the covid-19 pandemic and now has 100, leaving the providers in the rural communities to place children in other communities or even hotel casinos, according to KFF Health News.  

“DCFS attempts to place the child(ren) in the closest placement to their county of origin. When considering placement, DCFS must ensure they find a home that matches the number of children, ages, and needs consideration If the neighboring county is close enough, there may be resources to maintain the child’s school of origin, services, and hobbies, but if it is too far of a distance, the child’s school and services will need to be transitioned to the new county.” 

DCFS didn’t provide data on how many children in rural Nevada are placed outside of the county they live in. 

A multitude of reasons contributed to the decrease in foster homes, including some foster parents moving out of state. Foster homes not having enough space, or foster parents discontinuing the practice after serving for years have also contributed to the decline in the number of homes, according to DCFS. The pandemic made recruiting new foster parents a challenge, the division added.

Neglect accounts for 61.2% of children in rural Nevada entering foster care with the average length of stay being a year and eight months, according to the 2022 DCFS Data Book.

While DCFS didn’t provide specific data for rural Nevada, 30.4% of all children in Nevada are reunited after being removed and placed in foster care. 

Clark and Washoe Counties license foster parents separately from the rest of the 15 counties in Nevada, which DCFS oversees.

While homes for all gender and ages are needed in rural Nevada there is a more pronounced shortage of homes for teens, children who are medically fragile, part of the LGBTQ+ community, or have a large age gap between siblings. 

Rural foster parents can be single or married, work full or part-time, and rent or own a home. Foster parents also receive a stipend to help with food, housing, clothing, and educational supplies.

For rural Nevadans interested in becoming foster parents, DCFS online training sessions will be held twice a week from July 11 through August 3, 2023, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

After the training, those interested can complete the rest of the licensing process, which includes a background check and participation in a home study with DCFS to ensure the home and family are a good fit for a child in foster care. 

For more information on the training series, contact DCFS clinical program manager Kevin Quint at 775-684-1973 or kevin.quint@dcfs.nv.gov. Learn more about foster care at www.ruralnvfostercare.com.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.