Hundreds of children on the Central Coast are in foster care. Employees with the San Luis Obispo County Social Services Department say recruitment for foster parents is down and that it could be linked to availability of housing.
David Apodaca is a foster parent and has been for the last 13 years. Currently, he's fostering three teenage boys through Family Care Network, Inc., a local child youth and family services nonprofit that focuses on foster care.
"Helping a kid through difficulties and seeing them rise up of it, it's amazing," Apodaca said.
For a lot of families, that comes at a cost.
"I even look around and say I don't know how people are doing it as they move into this area because I think of, 'Wow, I wouldn't have been able to do it if I was trying to do it now,'" Apodaca said.
There are more children in foster care in SLO County than one might think.
"At any given time, we have around 350 youth in foster care in San Luis Obispo County," according to Linda Belch, SLO County Social Services Deputy Director.
Belch says finding homes for kids in foster care can be a financial challenge.
"A lot of that has to do with lack of housing," Belch said. "A lot of families are already doubled up and have family members living with them."
Jim Roberts, the CEO of Family Care Network, says finding affordable housing not only impacts the recruitment of foster families but the staff at Family Care Network as well.
According to the 2019 Central Coast Economic Forecast, the average monthly cost to rent an apartment in San Luis Obispo County is $1,500. The same report from Beacon Economics says that a single family home in SLO County is listed at $653,000.
Danielle Martinez, Foster Care Services Manager at Family Care Network, says potential foster parents need adequate space in order to bring a foster child into their home, and sometimes it's not feasible.
"We also have some people who can't afford to be in a place to have that extra space and because of that, it's really limiting," Martinez said.
For each foster youth that a family fosters, there is about a $900 monthly reimbursement rate, according to Belch.
Belch says these situation are often temporary and about 60% of foster children go back to their homes in the first year, but until reunification happens, they're looking for a place to call home.
"These are kids that go to school with your kids. These are kids that have hopes and dreams, kids who want to go to college and really kids who just really need a family," Belch said.
The price to live in paradise doesn't come cheap, but if your heart is open, your home just might be, too.
"We encourage people to come and talk to us because you may not think you have the space in your room that's appropriate or in your home but we may be able to work with you within the regulations to identify a way to make it work," Belch said.
For more information on foster care in San Luis Obispo County, click here.
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