Need is great for foster, adoptive families for thousands of children in Michigan

In Michigan alone, 13,000 children are in foster care. Half of them are in Wayne County.

Right now foster and adoptive parents are desperately needed. As a Detroit woman whose family fostered 40 children will tell you, you could be the one to make a difference in a child's life. 

Missy Parker Miller remembers when her husband and three young children watched a powerful documentary on the foster care system. It was a day that would change their lives forever.

"My two oldest were crying at the end of the documentary saying, 'Why aren't we helping the children? We have a home, why aren't we helping them?' So my husband and I talked to them about foster care, the realities of foster care, what it would be like as a family for us to do that."

That day they decided to expand their own. In 1990 they fostered their first two toddlers.

"It just changes their whole trajectory, to have someone to care about them. And we know that, that it just takes one person to really care about another person to help that person to kind of just realize they have hope again."

Missy and her husband already had three kids but over the next decade, they fostered 40 children, eventually adopting four of their own. There was never a shortage of children looking for a loving family.

Back then there was the crack epidemic, similar to what we are seeing now with the opioid epidemic.

"Essentially it's more incidents of abuse and neglect because of that, so we have seen a spike in the number of children that are entering foster care because of that very reason," Starr Allen-Pettway told us. She's the director of Bethany Christian Services in southeast Michigan.

During National Adoption Month, Starr is urging parents to look inside their hearts and consider giving a child a home.

Fostering a child who needs a safe, loving family - and if they can't be reunited with their biological families - adopting a child to give them a forever home.

They get up to 80 referrals a week but can only accept about six children a month. There are simply not enough foster families.

"We want to support every person who makes the decision to foster or adopt through the entire process, so we're not leaving people hanging when you make that decision. We're going to come alongside you every step of the way," Starr said. 

There are often challenges, but Missy says fostering is in her heart. After her husband died she went back to college to get her master's degree in social work. Her first job in 2007 was recruiting foster families for Bethany Christian Services.

Looking at her own family, she knows the difference a secure and loving home can make.

"If at all you can see yourself doing this, it is a wonderful thing to do because it makes a difference I think with your children the becoming more compassionate and expanding their horizons, so to speak," Missy said. "We have so many children that are hurting and you can make such a difference in that child's life. I do hope many families will look at this and say, 'That is something that we can do.'"

If you can't foster or adopt there are other possibilities, too, such as mentoring kids, mentoring a family or donating to families or churches who are supporting foster families. 

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