NEBRASKA -- Data shows Nebraska is becoming more in need of foster parents.

Monika Gross, executive director of the Nebraska Foster Care Review Office, noted that 4,100 children need out-of-home care. On top of that, she continued, a lot of them are young children. Gross said, that is particularly unusual.

It's something she is not used to.

Plus, just last year, Nebraska was one of just seven states in the country that saw an increase in foster children, according to the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System.

So what's causing the trend?

"I'm not sure we know," Gross said. The state has lost some services and rural offices in the last few years, Gross said, so that may be a factor. And, while the pandemic and gas prices have made fostering a more taxing responsibility, Gross noted that reimbursement rates have increased for foster parents --- so she doesn't think it's just about money.

"Perhaps we as a system need to do a better job of communicating that need," Gross suggested. 

She noted there has also been a shift from the federal level to focus on keeping families together. 

Being taken from your parents and siblings is extremely traumatic. No matter what the situation was, and how good their foster home might be, that child misses and longs for their family every minute of every day. I know because I lived it. If there is hope for unification with bio family… absolutely it should be worked toward. It doesn’t always work out, it didn’t for me, but yes it should be the goal. The pain of being separated from your family you bonded with is indescribable. Try to be more understanding. –Angie Rotolo

With that, she said, Nebraska has sought to keep kids within their communities if not within their families. Data shows keeping a goal akin to reunification like this does wonders for the child. That's why Gross is hoping more parents of minority backgrounds and from rural communities might volunteer to foster, in order to offer more options for children in the state's system. 

You can reach out to the Department of Health and Human Services to learn about training and how fostering is accomplished. You can also help out by volunteering with the foster care review office.