JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Across the state, and here in the east, licensed foster parents are becoming harder and harder to come by.

The shortage makes it more difficult to find homes for the thousands of children within the foster care system.

In Onslow County, there are more than 125 foster children, but only around 50 licensed foster parents.

48 of those children are currently placed in surrounding counties, taking them away from their support systems that they have created.

“It is so important for us to license foster homes in Onslow County so that children can attend the same school, participate in sports and maintain those connections in their lives that they had prior to coming into care,” said DaDonna Coulter, a licensed social worker with Onslow County Department of Social Services. 

Onslow County held a Foster Parent Round Up on Thursday, to recruit more families that will embrace a child as one of their own.

The county said oftentimes, children come into their system for issues of neglect, abuse, or dependency.

“We really need for everyone to consider opening not only their hearts, but your homes and give children that safe, stable and nurturing home environment that all children deserve,” said Coulter.

They add they do their best to support them with loving families, until they can be reunited and return home.

“Whether it’s temporary care that could last three years,” said Coulter.  “Or a foster parent that’s willing to do what we call Respite and provide emergency placement for children that could last just maybe a couple of days or a couple of weeks.”

One foster parent said the experience has been one of the hardest, but also the most rewarding.

“When you see that kiddo, and that family become healthy again and be able to live safely and have a family reunited and be whole, like, that’s just the best feeling in the world,” said Kate Schultz, Deputy Director at Foster Family Alliance of North Carolina.

She encourages others to learn more about getting licensed.

“So much of foster care is learning as you go, and we’re all learning,” said Schultz. “Even four years in and I still feel like I’m learning something new every day, and I would never trade it for the world.”

Onslow County offers a 5-week course to learn more about how to care for a child coming from a traumatic upbringing, before getting licensed as a foster parent.

Their next course begins on April 10th. 

For more information on fostering in Onslow County, click here.

For more information on Foster Family Alliance of North Carolina, click here.