Jul 8, 2014 12:38 AM by Kristi Tedesco and Edgar Ybarra
TUCSON - Norma Cota and her kids are going camping for the weekend. Three of the kids are relatives who fell into the child welfare system. "Me being a single person by myself, I had the home to bring them in so that's why I did it."
Norma fostered, then adopted, two of the three siblings through Devereux Arizona Foster Care. Back then they were three years, two years and eight months old. Separating them wasn't an option. Norma's still fostering the third child and opened her home for one more child whom she eventually adopted. That's a total of four kids. Three adopted and one fostered.
Kristi's Kids has learned that dozens of babies have been placed by the state. Nearly all of the kids here are victims of neglect, poverty or substance abuse. And almost half of all kids, removed from their parents, are between zero and five years old, the state likes to keep siblings together.
Nikki Fellner, a foster mother says that "there are thousand's of babies out there who can't live at home for whatever reason, they have nowhere to go, they have no other home to go to." She fosters infants, birth through 18 months, also through Devereux. Her partner lives out of state, she's doing it all alone. Nikki's second placement was a 15 month old, the had the baby for 2 days. It was part of a sibling group, but Nikki could take only the baby.
Nikki says "if there were more foster homes, especially ones willing to take sibling groups, they may be able to stay together more often."
Susie Huhn, Casa De Los Niños CEO says "being removed from their home is traumatic enough, but then to be separated from their siblings, the only family they know, adds an additional trauma to those young children.
She and other experts say, some parents don't want to foster babies. Others aren't licensed for multiple siblings or medically fragile children. To keep brothers and sisters together, It often takes a crisis shelter like Casa De Los Niños.
Mindy Green, a Devereux foster care coordinator says "we have five times as many kids as we have homes." She adds that not everyone can be a foster parent. There's a thorough process, paperwork and classes. It's important that foster parents need to follow through with all these.
"We want to make sure that the families that are choosing to foster are the right families for the children that are coming into care," says Green. "The biggest challenge we're facing right now, isn't the actual process itself of getting licensed, it's the lack of foster homes."
Devereux says that at this time their biggest need is for emergency foster homes to take kids at a moment's notice. If you'd like to learn more about becoming a foster, or adoptive, parent or adoptive parent, please click here for a list of foster and adoptive agencies in the community. To see the full story click on the video above.